KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
Founded in 1787, Marylebone Cricket Club is the most active and famous cricket club in the world and owner of Lord's Cricket Ground - the Home of Cricket.
© Copyright 2014
Distinguished guests, MCC Members, fellow cricket lovers, ladies and gentlemen, welcome and thank you for the kind invitation to share some time and thoughts with you.
I am very proud and grateful to have received the invitation and to be here amongst so many cricket legends and lovers. So, I stand before the cricketing faithful, a very humble and lucky man. We do live in interesting times and in the middle of an Ashes series as a former umpire and given my role with the ICC, I also stand before you as somewhat of a target! So, as always, I think I’m prepared for anything, so take your best shot.
I would like to acknowledge the presence of my wife, Helen. Without her love and support, I would not have been able to explore the opportunities afforded by this game and yes, behind a great man is an even greater woman! Helen is no different to all the other “cricketing widows” who are often given a lessor priority when the cricket is on – this is not a reflection on them, but a reflection on how highly we value our game and sport. You can see why it was a hard decision to move away from active umpiring but it was time to redress the balance and put more time and effort into our relationship and family.
Just on the topic of family – it must be said that I have two families, my cricket family and my paternal one. At this point, I’d like to pay my own tribute to last year’s MCC Spirit of Cricket speaker, Tony Greig. He was a commentator and I was an umpire, so I suppose you could say that we didn’t see eye to eye on everything. His untimely passing helped reinforce to myself what the true Spirit of Cricket is. Attending his memorial service at the SCG just before the traditional January Test, with both of his families present, it was so right that all present were there to remember, celebrate and pay their respects to such a servant of the game. As sad as that occasion was, and as important as this one is, cricket does have the power to bring different people together for the common good – the love and advancement of the game. I sincerely respect the work of Tony, his passion, his love and commitment to serve the game of cricket. We all come and go, but the legacy of our game carries on – as it should.
One of the key qualities an umpire must possess is humility – the ability to know and accept the role that we play within the game and ensure that we create the right environment for the players to perform and express their talents. Yes, we have an important role but it’s not the most important. It is, after all, a player’s game and always should be.
My story (humility)
As with most stories, my umpiring one started with a bit of luck. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to attend the NSWCU&SA training course and exam, lucky to get more than the required 85% pass mark, lucky to be joining the best umpires’ association on the planet, lucky to have such great teachers and mentors around me through my career. It was a great environment with extraordinary people and as a result NSW and Australia have produced some fine umpires over my time. Simply put, I would not be here today if it was not for the great people surrounding me – family, friends, work mates, employers, cricket administrators, cricket captains and most importantly, fellow umpires. To pinch a quote from one our current ICC Umpire Coaches … “Umpiring is everyone’s business”. Everyone has a part to play in its future and success.
I loved playing cricket and I was a child who lived for Saturday mornings. When I woke up and saw raindrops on the window of my bedroom, it was a heavy feeling of disappointment. I was not the best player, not the worst, but like most things, I gave it my best effort and worked very hard to improve all the time. The pinnacle of my playing career was being a team member of the U/19 NSW schoolboys side captained my Michael Slater with fellow team member (and previous MCC Cowdrey lecturer) Adam Gilchrist – two fine players and human beings.
As they say, when one door closes, another one opens and for me a back injury made me question and reassess my playing future. That’s when a good friend of mine talked me into joining him for the umpiring course. We thought we knew the Laws as players and this was going to be a breeze – the educators up the front had seen our type before and put us through our paces. Was 42 Laws over four nights and intermittent study the basis for being an umpire and having the right to send batsmen on their way?
Apparently it was! The written exam was passed and so technically I knew the Laws well enough, but what the game has taught me over many years, I can only scratch the surface in this small amount of time. Today, it continues to pay a full time wage and I continue to work with grassroots cricket as patron of the Bowral Cricket Club, where the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame is located, and right through to the highest level with the top umpires and players in the world. How lucky am I?
I would like to share with you just a few things that cricket and cricket umpiring has taught me over the years. So, here’s just a taste from my journey so far …
• How to better prepare for success (Preparation and hard work)
o Preparation is king – plenty of “what ifs” (gym sessions with Jock / Aussie players / post match laps and warm downs)
o No substitute for hard work – you must put in the work and hours and earn your place – it builds self confidence
• How to serve others (training / advice / experience)
o The game is bigger than the individual – know your place
o Helping or teaching others forces you to really know your game
o This is how you started – remember where you came from
• How to be a better team member (on and off the field)
o Umpiring is a team game – you have to want your mate to have a good match – we are judged as a team / group
• How to set goals and achieve them / celebrate them
o Small steps – one game at a time
o Focus on making your next game your best game – my 1st Test was not my best, my second Test was better
o Boxing Day 2000 saw my family and NSW members share the occasion
• How to be self disciplined (good habits)
o What you do and the work you put in / decisions you make when no one is watching is what really defines your chance of success
o To be in the top 1% of the sport, you need to do what the rest are not willing to do
o Self discipline is THE difference between success and failure
o Worked hard and followed the guidance of my coaches – life, fitness, diet, vision
• How to learn to like and appreciate who you are (role model for others)
o Be yourself because everyone else is taken
o Raise the standard / push the bar higher – don’t accept the performance limits set by others
o Others will use your performance as a benchmark
o We are all leaders in our own “world” and others take notice and make judgments
• How to think positively
o I can, I will, I am…
o Every great act / performance first starts with a thought – so does every bad one!
o World Cup 2011 – Semi Final India v Pakistan and then the final India v Sri Lanka.
• How to better deal with setbacks – mental strength
o No umpire likes to make an error – especially not me – I did take it personally
o Rational thought needs to overtake emotional thought – we all have these battle scars (Mental toughness – the ability to control your thoughts and emotions and not let them control you)
o We learn through our mistakes – the better umpires learn faster and make fewer mistakes than everyone else
• How to build relationships across cultures and age groups
o To be a good umpire, you have to be a good person
o Cricket is so diverse across cultures, age groups, religions – it unites so many
o Great to know how to count to six in so many languages
• How to handle and deal with pressure and focus on what’s important
o Pakistan v. India 2004 Test and ODI series
• Red carpet at the hotel – armed guard escort – metal detectors at the ground – more police inside than spectators
o Keeping it simple on the field
• Watch the ball
• Keep the mind clear – the here and now – pre delivery self talk trigger
• Shut out distractions – match goal anchors
• Opportunity to impress not driven by fear of failure
• Nerves are good
• Set small targets – 1st ball, 1st over, 1st hour, 1st session – then do it another 14 times!
• Pilots – hours of observation with the occasional few seconds of panic
o Players are generally very good and once you earn their respect through performance and hard work, they respond.
o Media focus
• England and India dominate here!
• Don’t read a newspaper or look at internet cricket sites if you think there is going to be bad press
• Do what is right to satisfy your own standards
• You cannot be perfect but you can be excellent
• Player behaviour – conflict resolution
o Empathy and understanding are key – dealing with people here
o Pick your moment and battles – it’s international sport
o Maintain standards – not making a decision is also making a decision
• Good Code of Conduct – the challenge is to be proactive but apply consistently
o Fine with the players playing hard but fair – Test cricket should be just that – a Test (Warne and McGrath). First-Class domestic cricket needs to be strong to prepare us
• Manage the player, manage the situation
• Out of conflict comes better relationships (Munaf)
o No problem with any appeal as long as they respect and accept the answer / decision. They have a job to do, like I do.
• Really impressed with how people such as Dhoni, Dravid, Kumble and Sachin get on with their game with the weight of so many fans / expectation
• Life is short and we have some great people in our game
o The people in our game make the game what it is
o We have so many “heroes” (My boss Vince)
o We remember the person first and the cricketer second (story about Shep – ice cream / job caring – no one ever doubted his integrity or game first focus)
So what does the Spirit of Cricket mean to me? First, the central theme is respect. From 1744, when the Laws of Cricket were first codified, through to today and into the future, my desire is for that central value of respect to remain as a constant. The game has changed over the past two and a half centuries, and it will continue to change, but it is vital that some things remain constant…they being the values of respect, the basis of fair play and a balanced contest between bat and ball. We need to learn from the past (taking the intrinsic values forward), assess the present (celebrate the moment) and be visionary for the future (to ensure the game of cricket survives and grows).
Let’s look at respect for the past
Cricket has established some great traditions that make it a unique sport. Many of our common values have been centered on such colloquial expressions like…
• “It’s just not cricket” – relating to fairness
• “A gentleman’s game” – relating to honor and respect amongst competitors and doing the right thing when required
• “Spirit of Cricket” – even though something might be technically right, applying a high standard of morals and integrity when playing – not to engage in cheating or taking undue advantage of someone else’s misfortune.
Then we have the conventions of the game that have been established over time. Today, we continue to respect those traditional conventions when we start plying our trade. As umpires we are the first to walk on to the field and the last ones to walk off – spare a thought for us at the tea break or innings break in a Test match where we spend the least amount of time having a break! (No, I don’t expect any sympathy here!!).
When only one umpire is present at a game of cricket, we are expected to officiate at both ends with the support of a stand in (normally a player) at square leg. We normally collect the bowler’s hat and carry it for the over in progress – some of you may not think this is much of a service, but no doubt many of you have not had to hold the sweaty, soaked and unlaundered hats belonging to players like Greg Matthews, Anil Kumble or Chaminda Vaas.
I started umpiring in the early 1990s just when third umpires were brought in for line decisions and recall the huge outcry when batsmen were now being given out run out or stumped by one or two centimeters. It was also an age when there was one home Board-appointed and one ICC-appointed umpire to be in the middle for Tests. My Test career started with being appointed by the ACB as they were called those days to stand in a Boxing Day Test at the MCG – to represent your country and your profession at the highest level is the ultimate. There were no ICC contracts, no ball trackers, no hot spot, no Twenty20 cricket and no international umpire training workshops. The uniform was basic, I supplied my own white business shirt and the Match Referee (Mr. AC Smith) gave me some National Grid stickers to apply to my shirt for each day’s play on behalf of our sponsor. My partner for the Test was Venkat and our teamwork was summarized by our chat as we walked out to start the match when I asked him, “which ends shall we go to?” and he replied… “I don’t care which end you want, but I’m going to that end!”
Let’s look at Respect for the present
Today, I have umpired as
• a full time contracted umpire spending more than half of each year working abroad,
• in three international formats of the game (Tests, ODIs and T20s),
• I’ve finished Test matches under floodlights to maximize playing time,
• umpiring under DRS and non-DRS playing conditions (and a mixture of both),
• I’ve had to sometimes publicly accept and reverse a decision error after it being dissected by the 3rd umpire on the giant replay screen,
• I’ve left a Test match unfinished lucky to still be alive after being involved in a terrorist attack, and
• umpired following journeys of over 16000 km, 72 hours after landing.
In today’s cricket, the use of technology has shown how difficult the job of an umpire is. In most TV broadcasts, there are around 32 cameras to capture the action of a ball being bowled at around 145km/hr, the batsmen speeding between wickets and fielders catching the ball close to the turf or trying to slide and prevent boundaries up to 80 meters away.
Every movement of the player is under the microscope (on and off the field) and every movement of the umpire is also under intense scrutiny. There is at least one camera on the umpire all the time, every ball, watching his every move and facial expression, waiting to capture his decision for all to see (and be replayed as many times as the director sees fit).
In today’s cricket, the decision of the umpire is scrutinized by all these cameras including slow motion, ultra motion, hot spot front on, hot spot leg side, hot spot off side, ball tracking and prediction, snicko, stump audio, the mat and then by up to three commentary experts upstairs in the box. After all that public scrutiny and technology, there is often divided opinion about what the correct decision was – was he out or was he not out.
The investment by television companies in extra cameras, high-speed frame rates, computer software programs and military infra-red technology, plus high definition broadcasting has certainly given the spectator and participants a lot more information – there is no doubt we now have a lot more “arm chair” experts in cricket! Today, everyone umpires the game by watching television. The invasive nature of this broadcasting has a double edge to it – it does put more pressure on players and umpires. Not too much now happens on a cricket field that is not captured by a camera, a microphone or piece of technology. This has the ability to bring out the best in the game and also the worst.
We can appreciate the skills and high standards on display. A great switch hit in ultra slow motion off a pace bowler by AB De Villiers or Kevin Pietersen, a magnificent mystery ball out of the front of the hand from Narine or Ashwin, a superb diving catch taken millimeters off the ground by Jacques Kallis and the scenes of celebration when the last wicket has been taken in an Ashes Test. We can also see how good the umpiring standards are and how good some of the decisions can be – the small inside edge before the ball hits the pads for a not out LBW, the flick of the glove down the leg side for a catch and confirmation of no edge for a tough bat/pad appeal with lots of dust flying as the batsman hits the ground with his bat.
Secondly, the Spirit of Cricket to me means that the values of the game take priority over personal gain or advancement. As you would have seen in that collage of pictures, there are so many facets and stakeholders in the game…
• hospitality and marketing
When these people or groups interact within the game of cricket, the Spirit of Cricket to me means that they do the right thing to promote and serve the game. They should add value and contribute. Our game is strong due to the mix of a wide variety of talent and contribution of everyone involved.
The collective intelligence of the group is always greater than that of the individual. I’ll repeat that … the collective intelligence of the group is always greater that that of the individual. No single person has all the answers and solutions to the current challenges, so I’m not going to stand here and pretend to tell you that I have them. The real strength lies in the processes of associations, cricket committees and Governing Bodies that operate under the rule of democracy.
Debating difficult topics in the public domain is perhaps not the best way to solve our current challenges as they can sometimes be limited debates according to only a few people’s viewpoints. It is also difficult to put all the facts on the table and consider all the options and compromises involved. There is rarely a perfect solution to any problem or challenge – inevitably there is always compromise.
The fact is, our game is stronger and more vibrant today than it was 30 years ago when I first played cricket. It is stronger today than even 13 years ago before I started umpiring international cricket. The one constant in our world is CHANGE. We need to embrace change in our game and be careful about how we shape the game and ensure that every time we change something, we are adding value while balancing the benefits against the costs.
Umpires are a unique breed of individual, we think differently – the job demands it as we have to deal with the facts and not the emotions. I’m not staying that we are strange, some might say so based on standing in the hot sun for over six hours a day, absorbing the pressure, being booed when we come off for bad light and having to concentrate over long periods of time. We do think differently. Whenever we look at a situation like weather, ground conditions, player behaviour, an appeal for example, we have to consider what the Law says and apply it in a fair / unbiased, accurate and consistent way. Remember, umpires don’t care which team wins the game!
Let me give you an example – have a look at this video clip
We have put in place a new coaching structure for international umpires – focusing on support and performance development and less on assessment. These ICC umpire coaches will need to reach down to the top domestic umpires and support the career path challenges for umpires. It’s a start but we need more quality umpire coaches and more funding for resources. We have recently conducted a “Coach the Coach” training course for the Test Playing nation’s future umpire coaches – this is first. This is a positive news story of leadership from the ICC and its Cricket Operations Department. We need to support and help the people who are training our future umpires BEFORE they get to representative levels – just like the players. We need to continually look for ways to improve performance and get decisions right in the first place. We want each umpire to be the best that they can be.
We are developing skill development training programs – trying to tap into the resources that the players have. These programs and tools have to be developed from scratch. Skill development activities have been created like accurate ball pitching judgment, height judgment from square leg, third umpire communication and decision making and front foot no ball. Simulated based training exercises are the way forward.
MCC has a role to play as well. The Laws sub-committee requires resources to create a more modern, user-friendly and accessible support tool for understanding and interpreting the Laws of Cricket. We need to make use of the technological resources such as digital video clips, streaming on the internet and online Laws examinations / interpretations.
This Ashes series highlights one significant challenge – that of succession planning. The neutrality guidelines mean that eight of the 12 Elite Panel umpires are not eligible to officiate. That leaves us with only four umpires to control these ten Ashes Test matches – a significant workload and responsibility for these umpires and I’m confident that they will do a fine job. It is also recognition for the way that Cricket Australia and the ECB recruit, train and develop their match officials. We have a real need to encourage and support the other Test playing countries to invest more resources in this area. This representation trend by two countries needs more competition from the others. Umpiring is everyone’s business, everyone seems to have an opinion on it but we need to alter the mindset and have all the countries investing more in the future of match officiating.
The best way to illustrate this point is through the balanced scorecard approach. We need all major elements of the game moving in the same direction at the same time and to all be of a high standard – I’m referring to quality players, match officials, facilities, administration and financial management. If any of these areas is weak, then the quality of our game is compromised. All five areas need to be strong and of a high standard.
The Laws tell us that the “Captains are responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit and traditions of the game as well as within the Laws.” The future of our game shows us that our captains are getting younger and have less playing access to more experienced players, who are retiring earlier from the recreational game faster as life becomes more time challenged. Last year, I participated in a new concept by the Sydney Cricket Association where they held a “leadership” forum for all the Captains in Sydney grade cricket. Business and sports leaders presented their views and lessons learned on leadership, so that captains could self assess their own leadership styles and abilities. We need to continue to support our captains with such education and training and help them carry forward the spirit and traditions of our game. Leadership and captaincy is just as important a skill in the game as an “off cutter” or “cover drive”. When cricket academies look at their programs, I’d like to see modules on the Spirit of Cricket, mental strength, emotional intelligence, the Laws of the game, leadership skills and history of our sport.
Umpiring is everyone’s business – we are the third team in the game. We seek equal consideration, we want to serve wholeheartedly and also have some fun out there.
So, in conclusion…
The Spirit of Cricket to me is about how best we all, individually, can serve the game – as a player, an umpire, a referee, a scorer, a grounds person, a commentator, a writer, a spectator, an administrator or a parent. We need to uphold the traditions and values of the game and carry forward that spirit by doing “the right thing” and putting these values ahead of personal gain or advancement so that future generations can experience what we have.
The game today does generate a lot of money, publicity, profile and opportunities for personal benefit. While it is fine to benefit from those opportunities, individuals and bodies need to also be aware of their responsibilities to keep reinvesting their time, profile and energies back into cricket – to reinvest back into the game, and remember where they came from.
I’m sure everyone here today has been a volunteer to the game at some point. Volunteers are vital to any sport and our game is no different – they take the form of umpires and scorers at the grass roots level, helping out at the club ground with the covers or helping out at the clubhouse at the end of the days play. The club strength and game is what we all make it. I encourage everyone to get involved in the game in any way that you can as it has so much to offer.
Together, let’s make the game of cricket better and more accessible for the next generation – by respecting the game’s heritage, enjoying and celebrating the present and creating more opportunities for our children – a legacy and future we can all be proud of.