“Hello there Dickie,” echoed the voices on Bridgford Road near Trent Bridge as cricket’s most-loved former umpire walked to the venue of the first Test between England and India.
Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird, acknowledged the fans’ warmth and briefly giving him company was Sourav Ganguly. “Which one of these flats is yours Dickie?” India’s former captain asked the amused umpire.
Later, Bird, spoke about issues close to his heart — the agony of watching technology overwhelming umpires; the awe of seeing Sir GarrySobers and Sachin Tendulkar play; and the nostalgia about India.
The missing buzz: Time marches on and there is no good worrying about it but you do miss it. Been my life, because I played county cricket for Yorkshire and Leicestershire and then I went into umpiring. It’s been my life since I was 15, 16 years old till I retired at 65.
Now I am the president of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club. I have taken over from (Geoff) Boycott and it has given me a new lease of life at 81.
The technology monster: I believe in leaving it to the umpire to make the decision. If an umpire made a mistake, people talked about it in the club, in the pubs, but it is part of the game (stresses). Now it has become an electronic age and I can’t see that these ways can be correct.
It can’t tell me the state of the pitch, the bounce, the swing, and the turn. It takes one direct, straight line all the time. All the authority has been taken away from the umpires. It is a very sad day.
His last Test as an umpire in 1996: The players (from England and India) formed the lines, gave me a salute and a lot of people told me that the reception I got at Lord’s was bigger than what Sir Don Bradman got in his last game (laughs).
Favourite players: Sir Garry Sobers was the greatest ever. Then I rated Tendulkar very highly. He came to my county Yorkshire when he was 19 and I umpired Tendulkar when he was probably 17. I told him then — young man, you will put your name in the record books.
Indian summers: I find India has mystique, the people are the finest I have met and that coming from a Yorkshire man is high praise indeed. The hospitality and the hotels are first class and when I walked on the streets , they used to call me ‘come into my shop Mr. Dickie Bird, would you like a shirt? Would you like a shoe?’
I want to send a message to the Indian people, I want to thank them for their sincerity, friendship and kinship.