Simon Taufel engaged India’s umpires in a meaningful classroom and practical exercise at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) Bangalore for a week from August 6 to 12. So thorough was the non-nonsense Australian umpire’s preparation for the dedicated seminar organised for the specific purpose of improving the quality of umpiring in India.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Ranji and National Panel umpires - approximately 110 and six umpire coaches - gained knowledge and would be a confident lot now to carry out their duties when the forthcoming 2009-10 season starts with the Inter-Corporate limited-overs tournament and followed by the Zal Irani Cup at Nagpur from October 1 to 5.

Taufel conducted classes with help of fellow Australians Ross Turner, Denis Burns and Ian Lock. India’s cricketers may not have been trained to deal with the media; the umpires are one up on them now. Taufel has ensured that.

Fine impression

Taufel came to the scene ten years ago and one would not have missed his sophisticated savoir-faire - on and off the field - and the fine impression he has made on cricketers, officials, fellow-umpires and of course the followers of the glorious game. He has officiated in 54 Tests and 139 ODIs and has been adjudged the ‘ICC Umpire of the Year’ four times in-a-row on the basis of ratings of the captains and other ICC match officials.

Taufel has been assiduous and business-like on the field, unlike the famous Dickie Bird and David Shepherd who commanded respect, but often brought to the fore their blithesome nature by their gestures. He also follows the book when it comes to executing the signals with the hand, unlike New Zealand’s Billy Bowden who does it all with a flourish and panache.

India’s umpires are lucky that the BCCI decided to spend $A 900,000 for a three-year programme to raise the standard of umpiring in the domestic tournaments and also impress the ICC managers for a place in the ICC Panel of Umpires. Shavir Tarapore, the seasoned umpire from Bangalore, has now been nominated to the ICC Panel. Amish Saheba is India’s second umpire in the panel and Sanjay Hazare has been nominated for the ICC TV umpire position.

Topics covered

The umpires lapped up lessons from Taufel on striving for excellence, key traits for effective umpiring, skill development, roadblocks to personal development, critical self analysis and rating oneself, doing SWOT analysis, judging light and light metres, improving mental toughness, physical exercises and conditioning aspects before a match, safety and security matters, the importance of understanding the Laws of the Game and ICC Standard Playing Conditions.

“Taufel also gave importance to a sensitive subject like dealing with the media. It’s excellent. Taufel’s advice to the umpires was ‘be positive to the game whatever may be the situation or circumstances”’, said Bomi Jamula, a BCCI Umpire coach now and a point-man for all Indian umpires to get clarifications on playing conditions.

Marcus Couto, another umpire from Mumbai, said he has grown as an umpire after attending the BCCI seminars. “Taufel’s lecture on dealing with the media was very enlightening. In fact his press conference with the Australian media at the Sydney airport on March 5, 2009 (two days after the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team at Lahore) was screened at Bangalore for 45 minutes. He landed at Sydney airport met his family at an enclosure and spoke to the media for nearly an hour,” said Couto who’s employed with the Cricket Club of India.

‘Be positive’

Media training was given in batches. The umpires were asked if umpire ‘A’ should quit because of his recent performance and if umpire `B’ should be given opportunities to stand in international matches. “They conducted mock interviews to ascertain how we respond. We were asked a variety of questions just as it would be the case around a match. Taufel’s advice was to be positive. He told us never to get upset when a colleague gets a chance to officiate in the semifinal or final of a tournament and instead asked us to congratulate the colleague,” said Couto.

After returning to Sydney from Lahore Taufel said that he could not understand why he was still alive after surviving the Lahore terror attack and that he’s still not sure how he, Steve Davis and match referee Chris Broad survived the incident unhurt when reserve umpire Ahsan Rasa was injured and the driver of the bus was killed.

“Soon after the attack in Lahore, Taufel received 72 text messages and hundreds of calls. He said he went through all the messages and prepared for 12 hours for his first press conference that took place at the Sydney airport. This was one example he gave for the session on dealing with the media. I enjoyed the seminar, especially the media session,” said Couto.

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