Transcript: Couch Talk with Simon Taufel

Couch Talk Episode 62 (play)

Guest: Simon Taufel

Host: Subash Jayaraman

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Subash Jayaraman– Hello and Welcome to Couch Talk. Today’s guest is umpire Simon Taufel. We will talk about his decision to call time on his international umpiring career, his new role at the ICC as the Umpire Performance & Training Manager, the kind of preparation and homework he did to be one of the best and the most respected umpires in the business. We will discuss the issues of Spirit of Cricket, women in the role of cricket umpires amongst other things.

Welcome to the show, Simon!

Simon Taufel– Thanks, Subash! Great to be with you!

SJ– It is my pleasure having you!

You debuted as an umpire in first class cricket as a 24 year old in 1995 and made the international debut in 1999 and have now retired as a 41 year old!

ST– I don’t prefer to use the term “retired”. Not many people retire at the age of 41. But, seems like a long time ago that I debuted, yes.

SJ– It is still quite young for an umpire, you know. The person who is going to replace you, Bruce Oxenford, in the panel, is 51. Why did you move away from this line of work? (Question from Thejas)

ST– That is a fair question. For me, age is not the issue here. I’ve been umpiring now for 22 years, and at the international level for about 14 years. Regardless of how old I am, it is not about my age. It is about my passion and love for the sport and what I want to do in my other days of my life. Every year, we sit down as a family, and even individually, I look at where i want to go and what I want to  do and what I want to do in the years ahead. It just got to the stage where my passion for helping umpiring and the game of cricket was probably best served off the field with the work that I am about to embark on; along with the fact that I have got three children in the age of 13, 11 and 5, and I if I don’t make this type of move now, I am going to miss the rest of their childhoods. There are a number of factors in it, but age isn’t one of them. I’ve had a good round and I have enjoyed my time on field in the international level. Now, I feel that the time is right for me to pursue a different passion in a slightly different way from what I am used to and look at the personal side of what I do.

SJ– We constantly hear about player fatigue and breakdown from injuries because of over-cricket. As umpires, you guys are jetsetting all over the world with very little downtime. How did you keep up with the constant travel and demanding job? This is a question from one of our listeners Aashish.

ST– It is a good question. I think the fatigue is probably a strong term. Unlike the players, we don’t get a home season and we don’t really have an off season. What happens for umpires form the Australasian region (New Zealand and Australia) is that during our international domestic season, we tend to travel overseas. If we are not travelling overseas, we are obligated to participate in our domestic series. We do go all year around. While contractually we have four weeks where we can request not to be appointed, the way the Future Tour Programs work sometimes, we don’t have the luxury of being able to nominate too far in advance of a window and have a break.

The job is demanding, it is all year around, but the way I approached it personally was that if I am not involved in a series, I was preparing for one. Or, training, or using my time as productively as possible with family and friends while still thinking about cricket. There isn’t much downtime as such. The work load isn’t tremendously great, but you don’t have the ideal balance of work and rest.

SJ– You mentioned preparing and training. Could you elaborate on that?

ST– I worked in a four week cycle, to describe it best, much in the way an athlete do his training for an upcoming athletics meet. I do it similar when I build to a series where I review laws in a working week – probably do six laws in a day, and keep up-to-date with my retention of what the law was all about, its interpretation etc. I would also do physical fitness routine which I might build for 3 weeks and be off for a week. Every second day I would do an eye vision coaching session. Preparation and training is all about giving you the feeling that you are ready for the examination and challenges ahead and building that up to create a feeling of self confidence and preparedness for the challenges and consequences  that you are about to embark on. That is what my training regime was like. And I suppose that just like every athlete or cricketer, the training demands are just as rigorous and taxing as much as the activity itself, ofperforming.

SJ– Is this training regimen common across all the umpires in the international panel, or is it just unique to yourself, as this is how you want to prepare?

ST– Everybody prepares and trains in their own unique way. It is an individual thing. I’d be reasonably confident to say that I took it to a level where the majority would not be. That is no disrespect to my colleagues, and in no way I am trying to separate them from me. Just that, everyone was different and had a different work life. It is just the way that I liked to prepare and it is the way that I tried to increase my self-belief and self confidence that I was ready for the challenge.

SJ– If you follow cricket on a regular basis, it becomes quite obvious that there is an upper echelon of umpires who are really, really good. They get a lot of the things correct. And then, it separates out. For example, you won the best umpire award from its inception for five years. Then, Aleem Dar won it thrice since then and now, Dharmasena. So, did you ever see it in that way at all, that you won for five years in a row and then somebody else beat you out to the top post?

ST– I think the first year that I was given that honour in 2004, it was as a surprise and shock. I can tell you from the time I started umpiring cricket, in no way in the world did I ever think that I would get this far and in no way ever did what I did for any sorts of awards or accolades in that regards. In 2004, I had people around me like Daryll Hair, Steve Bucknor, David Shepherd, Rudy Koertzen and the list goes on. Those guys were a lot more experienced than I was then. It was just an absolute shocker. I was certainly the new kid on the block. As I progressed every year and the times that I went on the podium that I accepted awards on behalf of my colleagues because we must remember umpiring is a team sport and not just an individual sport. We go out there and perform as a team. We act like a team. And frankly, we get judged as a team. I have always said that these awards aren’t the ones that motivate me and certainly don’t drive me, that is not what my umpiring is about. But, what they do provide is an opportunity to coaches and people back home- the friends and family, the people who sacrificed to help you things you wanted to do. That is quite a recognition to them. It has been a great journey with great thrills to be able to celebrate those sorts of awards with them. Quite frankly, whether or not you win that award, that is not what you do, it is about the pride in the way you do things, the legacy and the reputation that you leave behind.

SJ– Fantastic! And now, you have taken over the role as ICC’s umpire training performer and manager, operating from Sydney. What does this job entail and what is it that you wish to accomplish?

ST– We have been working now on this role for a couple of years where I have been a part-time elite umpiring role and a part-time education and training and facilitating role for match officials. It is nothing new. It is not something that I am entirely strange to. I don’t think my colleagues and referees in the international cricket will be strange to it either. It is primarily a support function for the elite panel and the international umpiring group, where in short term, will be working with Dennis Burns from Cricket Australia to develop umpire accreditation program for ICC which is a benchmark and competency based program to ensure that the match officials are better prepared for the challenges of international cricket. The second of all it is to provide and ongoing support to the umpires in the form of workshop, seminars, create training resources to support and help them perform at optimum levels and help them be the best umpires they can be. So we are only developing those programs with the extra resource of one person, but with huge amount of responsibility and huge amount of passion and dedication to that role. It is the same when I personally tried to take international umpiring to a different level from when I started to try and raise the bars of work from on field performance and preparation. I am going to try and do the same in an off-field capacity using the talents and resources of the elite panel. I must say that what is pleasing about the elite panel going forward is the quality of people who join every year or every second year. You mentioned Bruce Oxenford. And he is a really talented umpire. If you look at the last year, you can see the people who joined us – Kumar Dharmasena, Richard Kettleborough, Marais Erasmus. They are really talented. The talent of those people who join us year in year out is increasing all the time and improving the standard and moving in the right direction.

SJ– In your career, when that horrible incident happened in Lahore in 2009, was there a time when you thought you would want to quit the business, thinking that it is not worth it?

ST– I think the only time when I thought of quitting the business because it was not worth it was probably after a terrible game or a decision that you are not too proud of. You wonder whether it is all worth it. In terms of that Lahore incident in 2009, it was a matter of personal security and it was one of those live decisions and you wonder if cricket is everything that it is cranked up to be. It is just a terrible thing that so many people lost their lives just going to a game of cricket. It wasn’t something that we were making a political statement. It wasn’t something like we were endangering the lives of other people. All we were doing was that we were going to a game of cricket and playing a Test match. To lose our driver that day and have people injured in our vehicle and to have those security forces around us, with so many policeman who had lost their lives and so many families affected as a result, it does make you question the value of life and what life is all about. It was more of a personal reflection more than a professional one, if I can put it that way.

SJ– There was a recent TV channel sting operation where 6 umpires were caught in it, allegedly ready to fix matches. If you had followed the NBA a few years ago, there was a case of the referee Donaghy making calls during games for gambling line purposes. What are your thoughts on this? What does cricket do for umpires? The umpires are vulnerable off the field as well, like the players.

ST– Obviously, I can’t comment on the ongoing investigation and the ongoing issues that are involved. But, I can say that the umpires have the responsibility to show a higher level of integrity and to be leaders in that area, and that at all times they work within the ICC policies of anti-corruption and behavioural ethics. Those policies are very clear. There are ways of making sure that the individuals follow those. It is a well documented process, and if anybody is concerned about an approach being made by an individual, then they understand what the protocols are, whom to contact and what to advice those authorities. As for what is happening at the moment is that, that process will run its course and those investigations will take place. From my perspective, the work that I do with my umpires, it is all about integrity, being a good person, and if you do those things, being a good umpire naturally follows.

SJ– What does it take to be a good umpire? You have been one of the best, almost your entire international career. What does it take to be a really good umpire?

ST– It takes a lot of things. But, briefly, first of all, hard work, and dedication and commitment and looking for ways to get better. It means having an empathy and appreciation for what the players are going through and to make sure that you match the professionalism that they put into their game with your own level of professionalism and leadership. And, to be able to make decisions, not just the outs and not outs, but to make decisions in line with the expectations of the players and support staff. We are one big cricket family and it is important that we are fair in our approach to umpiring and the seriousness and professionalism in our job. Obviously, communication and people skills. Far too much of the media focus is on the LBW or caught behind that is debatable, but the real skill of what an umpiring is all about, which is being able to manage the match in a fun and fair environment, to be able to make good value judgment to players as often and long as we can. To be able to have good relationship with our cricketing family and to be able to make good value judgments of the way we play the game, about the safety and enjoyment in mind. Those are the things that make a good umpire, apart from always looking for ways to improve your game and do it with the highest possible standards. The way I was brought up at the New South Wales was to not be the centre of attention, and let the attention be on the players because that is what the people pay the money to see. If the umpire has done a good job, it is gone unnoticed. If I can go unnoticed in my games, that was certainly the ambition. To walk off the field knowing that you have given a really good effort and carried yourself, then you can be proud of what you have done and not feel that you were not mentioned on the broadcast or on the back page of the newspaper.

SJ– These days, you have the giant replay screens on the grounds. Let’s say you have made a decision and the player is walking off. But, he is rubber necking and turning around and watching the replays constantly. Maybe it was a close decision from the batsman’s point of view. What goes on in your mind at the time someone is looking behind at the replays, perhaps you got something wrong?

ST– If you get something wrong, there are a lot of people who are prepared to act as experts and provide you feedback. There is no shortage of people on the ground, on the field of play, or as you walk back to the dressing room or even as you get in your car on the way home or even when you go to breakfast on the following morning, there will be plenty of people who would be able to point your failures to you. It is a very public job that we do. And, as I intimated before, if you get everything right you go unnoticed and nobody says anything. If you get anything slightly wrong, then everybody is an expert [with] the benefit of the amount of replays that people get to be able to point something out to you. You have to deal with that in a slightly rational way, and not get too emotional about it. Mental toughness, as an umpire, is important. The best way I can advice people on how to deal with it is to be rational with it. You have seen it once, you saw the best way you could, provided the right mental frame of mind and that means that you were in the here-and-now space that we refer to. You have seen it and made the best decision you could. If it so happens that you were not able to spot one of the 29 other cameras have seen, if you have not done as well as the predictive ball tracking systems, or if you haven’t been as good as the heat seeking technology of hot-spot, you just got to cop it on the chin and move on. Maybe I was not as good on that occasion as I thought I was. Learn something from it, and come back strong for the next ball. That takes a huge amount of mental toughness and fortitude to try and park that incident and come back stronger. As you said before, I have been here for a while and my career has spanned a large number of years. So, funny about that, we keep coming back for more, don’t we?

SJ– You briefly mentioned about the technologies being used. In a philosophical sense, there comes a question from my listener, Suhas– how do you view the DRS? Do you see it primarily as an umpiring aid, or hindrance? Do you have any suggestions on how it might be better utilised?

ST– Without going too far, it is important to note the amount of scrutiny the umpires are under these days with the amount of replays and cameras, and the different forms of technologies to scrutinize decisions. But our elite panel average is just under 95% for the last 12 months, as an average for making correct decisions over all decisions. I think we need to look at the plus side of the technology and note that the majority of the decisions we do make are in fact correct. That is a credit to the elite panel and the international standards that we promote these days. In my new role I am trying to promote umpires get even better before you even have to use technologies in the first place.

SJ– Another question comes from the listener Kartikeya– How does your role as a TV umpire affect your role on the field while you are standing at the bowler’s end, which is the best position to judge? From time to time you are in the third umpire booth making calls after looking on replays. How does it help you?

ST– I will make two points here. The first is, in these days, the third umpire in a full technology series, arguably, the better umpires need to be on the third umpires’ box. That is where you can’t afford to make mistakes. It is an incredibly challenging job umpiring role these days because not only must you be familiar with the technology and how to use it, but you should also be able to interpret it, apply it and also support your on-field umpires with over-rates and other forms of decisions and manage the match from your off-field position.

The other point I wanted to make in appreciating umpiring is that when we are in an ICC series like we were in the T20 World event in Sri Lanka is that we constantly rotate between third umpire and even fourth umpire positions. What that role does to an international umpire is that it gives them an appreciation for what it is like to do all the roles, particularly the fourth umpire role as you get close to see the players as they walk to the field or go off the field and watch when they prepare, or go into the middle to have a ball getting selected. You have the appreciation for how much effort and professionalism they put in the job and it really makes you give back to grass roots quicker, rather than just think that you just go out there and do the job the way that you have always done it. You get to see cricket from a different perspective. You sometimes get to appreciate what the players are going through, what the spectator goes through, and maybe what the person on the street is saying too! All those things are good reality checks to appreciate the other roles that you can fall into the habit of taking it for granted. The role of third umpire is becoming incredibly challenging. There is over rate, ball counting, overs per bowler, code of conduct, front-foot no balls, run outs, stumping, hit-wickets, the DRS decisions, player challenges. It is incredibly challenging role. And on top of that you have to be a master of communication. You keep working with different directors, knowing where the different camera angles and replays are, and get the best footage possible for making the right decision possible, rather than just to take what you get. It is a real challenging role these days.

SJ– I have two follow up questions on the things that you mentioned. First, one of the more used and abused phrase these days is “The spirit of cricket.” It has become a convenient tool for one party, when suits them, to preach morality to another. For example, when it comes to Mankading, the batsman or captain of the batting team says “it is the right thing not to Mankad” even though it is within the laws of the game as a proper mode of dismissal. So, why do umpires sometimes go and put the burden of the dilemma on the fielding captain?

ST– Umpiring technique is not to be confused with the spirit of cricket and what tradition we have with that particular running of the non-striker at the bowler’s end is that before the umpire makes a decision and puts himself in a difficult position where he is often asked to withdraw the appeal and let the batsman stay should he make that call is as a matter of courtesy. The umpiring technique is to check with fielding captain if he wishes that appeal to proceed. It is a good check and balance for that umpire to have the opportunity before the umpire does make the decision. Basically, the umpire is asking the fielding captain “Is this the way you want to play the game of cricket?” If the answer is “Yes”, he makes the decision. If the answer is “No”, we go back and bowl another delivery. It is more of an umpiring technique than it is a spirit of cricket issue.

On the spirit of cricket issue, it is all about the one word called “respect”. When we talk about how we want to play our game, it is all about respect. It is about respect for the opponent, respect for each other, respect for the umpire’s decision and respect for the game. We all play the game slightly differently, but one of the key phrases I love about the so called spirit of cricket is “That is not cricket.” What I love about cricket is its unique traditional values about respect and it is about self-governance, players being able to play the game without umpires’ intervention about what is acceptable practice and what is not. I think the only thing that we have in mind is that it is becoming an incredible professional and career minded game, which sometimes is not a game but a profession. You have people who are competing for highest stakes and you have players who are playing for their contracts and careers that tests the resolve of some of those values of traditions. In the heat of the battle, I can understand the pressure the players do go through where some of those pressures and values are slightly blurred. That is where I think, the role of the umpire will come in and add a bit of calming influence. As a form of check and balance, you will see how a fielding captain does want to play the game of cricket.

SJ– Wouldn’t the DRS then essentially violate what you just mentioned, in terms of respect and the spirit of cricket?

ST– You could draw that conclusion, yes. It is not for me to comment on, but it is one way of looking at it. But, other people might have a different view. These days, going forward, given the professionalism and career minded approach that I just mentioned about how the players play the game, it is incumbent on the umpires and the game to try and get as many correct decisions as possible. It is a balance.

SJ– You mentioned “communication”. I assume it is the communication with the players, team management, within the umpiring fraternity etc. But, what about the end consumer- the fans? Sometimes we hear from the commentary box that the on field umpires and the third umpire are talking about such and such things. We don’t get an explanation on why a certain decision was made. Whereas, in any other professional sport around the world, for example when in Major League Baseball umpire blows a call, usually in the press conference after the game the umpire explains what he saw and why he made the decision.

ST– I don’t see too many umpires or former umpires who get involved to be a part of commentary team, first and foremost. Do you know of any? Other sports have a few. The Australian Football has a former umpire in their commentary team for a few years here at one point of time. It adds a different dimension because it adds an extra balance to what the former players are talking about. The laws and playing conditions and interpretations do change almost on annual basis and it is challenging to keep pace with that. We have a duty to try and educate the spectators and the players on the field on what those changes are, and more specifically how the umpires are going to view the decision from time to time.

When you have players or former players commentating it is very easy for them to skew their comments by whether they were a batsman or a bowler. They have a commentator for a particular participating team. I’d like to see, going forward, a little bit of demystifying what we do and how we do it. However, that aside, I certainly take what you were saying about match officials not commentating or not explaining about certain things. There is scope to do that. But, we need o be very cautious about how we do that. I have seen many examples in the past where a very good umpiring decision is ruined by their poor explanation. That doesn’t say we should start to go there more. Sometimes, we do things that aren’t easily explained, or when they are attempted to be explained the right message does not get across. You were right when you said the communication is vital. It certainly has a place in match officials trying to do that. But you also have to appreciate that we have a large cross section of people who umpire international cricket, and for a lot of them English is not their first language. And to be able to get their point of view across easily and concisely, without confusing people. Once you open up to the media scrutiny in a way, it becomes like this interview. You ask things that things that weren’t on the table, and you will try to add more for your listener’s interest, grab a headline or take a particular comment out of context. We have to be very careful about what we say, because integrity is important to maintain. Not only are we representing ourselves when we speak publically, but we are also representing the game of cricket, we are representing ICC and even our home boards. We have to be very mindful of promoting the game in a positive way. We have to be quite guarded at times.

SJ– When it comes to the relationships that you may have with players of specific country or city, a question from listener, Hassan– how do you ensure that any existing relationship you may have does not subconsciously affect your decision making?

ST– That is a good question. You mentioned my age when I started umpiring, particularly in my first class and international career. I certainly undertook playing with a passion like I took umpiring with a passion. When I started my representative career, I was umpiring guys that I played representative cricket with and so I was in the same age group as people like Adam Gilchrist and Michael Slater and few other people that your listeners would relate to. For me it was about having a professional at arm’s length from those players and ensuring that I wasn’t considered to be their mates or friends. But, I still was able to have conversations with these players. Even today, I still can.

Just as easily I can have a good conversation on-field with Virender Sehwag in a semi-final of a Champions League match and be able to give him out LBW the next time I see him, I am very able and capable of doing that, provided it is the right decision and it is the right thing that should be done. When you conduct yourself in the way that the players respect, those decisions are very easy. When you have inappropriate relationships with the players and the support staff that compromise the ability for you to make the right decision at the right time, that is when you do lose respect. I’d like to think that having left the international scene recently, I can leave with the respect of those participants and the respect of the cricketing family for having the courage and ability to maintain the professional relationships with people, but also have the courage to make the right decision at the right time regardless of who is involved and walk away from the situation with my head held high.

SJ– In the elite panel, you have a collection of umpires form all over the world. Most of the countries are represented. In cricket’s past you have had issues of neutrality. A home umpire may be  a judicator in favour of the home team etc. A question from a listener Shoaib – can neutrality be achieved with local umpires? If Pakistan is playing in Pakistan (or UAE, for that matter), you could have Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf umpire in it and not worry about where their interest may lie.

ST– The first thing to recognize is that all umpires are neutral. I am yet to meet an international umpire who thinks otherwise. With the level of performance scrutiny that is placed on each match official by the ICC head office in Dubai, each umpire is performing to meet the approval of those assessments and people who assess our performance. I am very comfortable sitting here and talking to you and know that every umpire is unbiased.

It is important though, that as far as the game is concerned, and I understand this perspective is that the perception of neutrality is just as important as the factual reality of neutrality. It is all about perception. Umpiring for me is how people perceive the umpires to be. If people perceive that an umpire is a poor communicator or a poor decision maker, regardless of the facts, he is. And it is very important how we deal with those perceptions. Neutrality is just one of those issues. Whenever we have non-participating umpires from the countries involved, whenever we have that independence in appointments and people involved who aren’t from the home country or visiting country, then the whole matter of whether they are giving a favourable decision based on where they come from is eliminated. So, it is not up for a debate or argument, and it is not even a part of the picture. If an umpire does make a mistake, it is not clouded by an underlining reason for the mistake. That itself is good for the sport and debate.

There are varying levels of neutrality in international cricket. In International T20s of bilateral series, umpires are selected by the home board. That seems to go through relatively smoothly. In ODIs, we have home board appointment. If we have an ODI in Australia, we will have a Cricket Australia umpire with an ICC umpire. If it is a DRS series, an ICC umpire will be in the third umpire’s box. So, we have varying levels of neutrality. But, going forward, what is important is that every umpire on the field and in the box performs to his ability and capacity. As I said before, each umpire is assessed by the ICC. The sole focus is to perform well and have a good assessment from the ICC

SJ– There is a follow up question – how is it different in umpiring in a match in the subcontinent? For example, one day you might be officiating in a test match in England and in the following you could be in Ahmedabad and maybe a week later be somewhere else? How do you adjust to the local conditions? In some place you may have some extra bounce and things like that?

ST– That is one of the beauties of international cricket. We are not different from the players. We have to adjust to the conditions quickly. Very few of us get the opportunity of playing in a trial game before the big game starts. With a jam packed international calendar, it is not a luxury we can take advantage of. So, getting used to net sessions, getting used to the bounce, pitch conditions, foods, climate – whether it is very hot or cold in New Zealand, for example. Much preparation can be done with getting familiarised with the conditions and getting used to the time zones, and particularly, getting into sleeping patterns.

If you go to South Africa from Australia, for example, it is a13 hour journey, but it crosses multiple time zones. Granted that the playing conditions might be relatively similar to Australia in terms of bounce, seam and weather, just getting used to the different sleeping patterns and not being subject to waking up at 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning and wanting to go back to sleep at 1 o’clock in the afternoon is a challenge in itself. You have to try to simulate into different time zones as soon as possible.

Getting used to different foods- you mentioned about the subcontinents. One of the challenges there is to not do things radically too differently from what you do at home. You try and pick foods and eating habits very similar to what you do at home. If you can’t find them, then you have got to try very hard to find a good substitute. Stick to pattern routines and patterns you follow at home in terms of what time you would go to bed.

Apart from that, you have the cricketing issues. As you mentioned before, there are different pitches in the subcontinent than what we have got here in the Southern Hemisphere. For me, it is about getting used to it in the net sessions, it is about looking at different video clips and know about what to expect from different types of bowlers. It is about knowing the mindset of the cricketers in front of you and being prepared for that particular type of delivery and what is likely to happen. You have to anticipate without pre-judging. It is about changing your mindset and be as prepared as possible.

SJ– Last couple of questions and we can wind up. There is a flood of questions from listeners – have you been in a situation where because of the artistry that was in front of you, because you have the best seat in the house where you have slightly leaned towards becoming a fan and enjoying what is being done in front of you? If that ever happened, what was the situation?

ST– That gets us back to your question about relationships with the players and being able to make the right decision. Unfortunately for me, the way I approached cricket umpiring is that I have become a terrible cricket watcher. I have almost disassociated myself with the beauty of the game and all I see is a set of pads and watch the ball and where it pitched, where it is hitting and where it is going. I don’t really care who is bowling and I don’t really care who is batting, I just got to make those very clinical judgments and not be too worried about who is involved.

Unfortunately, though, I haven’t been able to appreciate sometimes some of the skills involved in who is actually playing- whether it is an innings by (Sachin) Tendulkar or whether it is a magnificent spell by (Shane) Warne or if it is the guile of (Muttiah) Murali(tharan) or if it is the patience and execution of a (Rahul) Dravid or a Jacques Kallis. That is probably the disadvantage that I have got in my style of umpiring. I don’t think that every umpire does this, you will have to ask them that question. But for me, the best way that I can make those independent valued judgments is not to get too involved in what a player is doing or appreciate the skill of what they are doing because once you get involved in those issues, I think it can affect…not your independence so much…just your valued judgment about what you are about to do next.

So, for me, it is all about bats and balls or about pads and stumps. Or it is about the pitch and where it is going. So, these days, when I watch cricket,  I look at what the umpires are doing and think about the tactics of the players and what they are trying to achieve and trying to be ready for what they are going to do next rather than appreciate the skill that is involved and the talent that is on display. Every time I look at cricket matches  now, it is about what the umpires are doing and think about what I would do if I was that position and what decision I would make. I’m a terrible cricket watcher these days.

SJ– A couple of listeners want to know if there is a decision or an off field decision that you regret the most?

ST– There are a few. Every umpire, I am very confident of this, if you ask them if they remember their big mistakes, their answer would be “Yes”, because they are like battle scars that you get and they create such interesting emotions like “How did I do that? How did I get that wrong? What happened there?” to think about so much that you just don’t forget some of your big mistakes and some of the things that didn’t go according to plan. You carry those with you for a long, long time. The challenge is that you learn from them and to get stronger and focus on what you have to do right. Sometimes, we just don’t remember all the positive moments from the great game and decisions and moments as much as you remember the ones that didn’t go right. I could list quite a few, but I am not sure your listeners have got that much time. They do stick with you, they drive you and make you work harder. They are still with me.

SJ– I see how you have answered without actually answering the question.

ST– Good tool, isn’t it? I’m sure the listeners could remember the moments, I don’t need to remind them.

SJ– One last question, it comes from Minal. She wonders if there is a possibility of a female umpire in a men’s game. Recently, we saw in the NFL where for the first time in a real live game one of the side line referees was a woman.

ST– Absolutely. No problem with that what so ever. I grew up doing first grade cricket at Sydney where we had a female umpire by the name Stephanie Herman, and she did a  large number of first class games, was well respected and a great attribute to our cricket at that time. We have a female umpire who is going to be attending the u-19 Women’s World Cup to be held in India early next year. Kathy Cross will be attending there, also international panel member umpires and associate and affiliated umpires from around the world and Kathy will be performing. She deserves to be there eon the basis of her performance and merit. So, there is no problem as far as I am concerned with respect to women umpiring in a game of cricket. I am all for that, and happy to support that advancement.

I also have the great pleasure in trying to cross-pollinate with all the sports and learn what they do and in the game of National Rugby League in Australia, we also have female touch-judges and referees in that sport too and that can only encourage further participation of women in the sport. In a side of the sport where we sometimes struggle to have enough umpires or match officials, we have no problems in opening up to as many groups of people as possible and be open to participate.

SJ– Thanks a lot for coming on the show, Simon. It was an absolute pleasure having you on the show!

ST– Not a problem. Thanks for the opportunity!

SJ– My pleasure!

Download the full episode here.

Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman