‘Apologise when wrong, to earn respect’

Simon Taufel says umpires need to keep pace with technological advances that reduce their burden rather than seek to replace them

December 18, 2018 01:06 am | Updated 01:07 am IST - MUMBAI

Known as one of the youngest umpires in the cricketing world, Simon Taufel is revered by players across countries for his calm and fair approach on tough calls thrown up on the pitch.

Facing googlies

Despite having retired six years ago, Mr. Taufel was one of the top draws at the Indian Institute of Technology’s Techfest on Sunday, where he fielded sport enthusiasts’ googlies that ranged from the growing role of technology in umpiring to what he thought of Indian cricketers like Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The greater use of technology in cricket, he said, is meant to reduce the effort of, and not to replace human beings altogether.

“The world is constantly changing and change is the only constant. Earlier, we only had basic monitors but now we have high-definition monitors, buttons for engineers, technicians, hotspot cameras, ball tracking and what not,” explained Mr. Taufel, who made his test umpiring debut in 2000 at the age of 29. Technology is getting faster and sometimes complicated, but umpires have to keep up with it and adapt, he stressed.

Mr. Taufel, who has won five consecutive International Cricket Council umpire of the year awards between 2004 and 2008 said that his reasons for choosing this profession was not in pursuit of money or awards but because he likes what he does.

‘Unusual career choice’

In fact, like many Indian students, he had a tough time conveying to his parents about his unusual career choice, although the accolades he received as an umpire were eerily similar to his days as a budding fast bowler.

While a back injury cut short his bowling career, Mr. Taufel, in his club cricket days was given the ‘best and fairest player’ award for a season after he picked up the most wickets at the best average. “The awards that I have received over the years reflect team work. It started as a part-time job for pocket money, and graduated to a full time job. I tried to get through college but I backed out in one year, the difficult part was to inform the parents that this [umpiring] is what I want to do,” he recalled.

That, however, wasn’t all he had in common with the students attending his talk at IIT. “The language is common between us. We both share love for cricket and most of you [students] are studying technology in a search for getting better every day, and reach where no one has been. So do I,” he said.

‘What I have learned’

“One of the important things to learn is to be able to interact with the people of all age groups and cultures. You don’t have to like everyone, but you should be able to work with everyone,” Mr. Taufel told students.

“I aim for best umpiring, one ball at a time. As an umpire, one needs to do things never done before, apologise when wrong, congratulate people... to be capable of earning respect. You also have to be a good person, not just a good umpire. We have to work very hard, even when no one is watching,” said Mr. Taufel. “I have given a lot of great players wrong decisions but at that moment you don’t realise that it is the opportunity to learn. Both your best and the worst is on television, what one can do is accept the mistakes and be gracious in your success,” he added.

Grace under fire

With several students seeking his views on Indian cricketers, Mr. Taufel said it is amazing to see players like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in action as they remain composed under pressure.

“Especially in a country like India and people like you [the audience] where there is so much pressure to perform, there is so much to learn from them,” he underlined.

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