Simon Taufel deserved a better farewell gift than the announcement that on the day he stepped off the field for the last time six umpires were under suspicion after a TV sting accused them of match fixing.
Taufel proved much during his all too short career — he is to be a teacher of umpires in future when he plans, sensible man, to spend more time with his family rather than travel the world — and in fact he is a true cricket hero.
His demeanour was that of an upright judge and that is how he will be remembered. He also proved that you do not have to spend years giving batsmen out and judging bowlers for no-balls and fielders for fifty-fifty catches in the English county game to reach the top. Perhaps it is most important that he showed that by application, self-discipline — he was a man who kept rigidly to a training schedule — and learning you can be a young international umpire.
Not long ago that would have been considered a contradiction in terms. The best umpires — and I think I am stating an obvious fact here rather than making a nationalist point — have been, like those two pals of mine Dickie Bird and the late David Shepherd, two of the recent great men, geared to a long career as a player and then another big stint as an umpire.
They were superb umpires; but I believe Taufel was better. Bird was inclined to flap — no pun intended — and late in his career Shepherd made mistakes although you might travel a long way to find any cricket fan uttering a bad word about the pair.
Certainly it is impossible to imagine either of them being caught making injudicious remarks to a television reporter. I know. I once asked David Shepherd to comment on a decision he had made which seemed off beam to many people and his only answer was: “Now then, Ted, not me son.”
Bird is a character but he has done his profession one enormous favour. He has brought the lot of an umpire under the public gaze, made their troubles, their needs and their competence properly understood.
The crowds in England loved him because he cried when he was distressed, because he showed his emotions when he had to retire but also because he was the finest judge of a run-out we have ever seen.
Fred Trueman, a friend of umpires like most English cricketers, used to shake his head whenever Bird’s name was mentioned. “He was a great umpire but in his book he said that I knocked him out with a short ball and he mentioned the date. I know I developed early but that day I would have been 12 and he would have been eight!”
So long as there are men like Taufel, the two Pakistani umpires Asad Rauf and Aleem Dar and the amusing Ian Gould the game is in good hands.
I still live in hope that the accusations against the six umpires from the ICC World T20 were due to a misunderstanding.
Cricket has already had more than its fair share of problems with three Pakistani players sent to jail for a spot-fixing crime that was bizarre in the extreme. The youngest of the three will be encouraged to return to the game in a few years; mainly because the game is embarrassed he was misled by his captain.
If the umpires are found blameworthy cricket will once again be mocked, abused and need to hide its head. If you cannot trust the umpires who can you trust.