Umpire: West Indies (1989-2009)
No-one has umpired more Test matches than Steve Bucknor. Between 1989 and 2009 the man from Montego Bay stood in 128 Tests. In his first Courtney Walsh took 10-101 and in his final game the Australian and South African players formed a guard of honour for an umpire known worldwide as ‘Slow Death’.
Bucknor trained as a maths teacher and coached football, cricket and athletics. He represented Western Jamaica at cricket and also captained the Rest of Jamaica against Kingston. In the early 1970s he took up refereeing and umpiring and in 1974 gained his West Indian umpiring qualifications.
Bucknor’s first international match was an ODI between West Indies and India in March 1989; he made his umpiring Test debut a month later.
Bucknor umpired five consecutive world cup finals – a record – between 1992 and 2007. His first final came with just four Tests under his belt, and the middle three were umpired alongside the late David Shepherd, who sat on the MCC World Cricket committee until his death in October 2009. In total he umpired 181 ODIs.
In 1994 the ICC introduced a policy demanding one neutral umpire per Test, to be selected from the International Panel of Umpires. Bucknor was a member of the panel for the duration of its life until 2002, when it was superseded by the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires. This body, comprising the world’s best umpires, provides two neutral umpires per Test and one neutral umpire per ODI. Bucknor was a member of the Elite Panel until his retirement in March 2009.
Bucknor’s sporting life did not begin and end with cricket. In 1964 he played in goal for Jamaica in a schoolboy international against Brazil as the Island side drew 1-1, and he refereed numerous football internationals, including a world cup qualifier between El Salvador and the Dutch Antilles in 1988. When Fifa reduced the age limit for referees to 45 Bucknor retired from football – football’s loss was cricket’s gain.
In October 2007 Bucknor was awarded the Order of Jamaica, Commander Class, for “outstanding services in the field of sports”.