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Commitment and integrity priority for Taufel

S. Dinakar

— Photo: R. Ravindran

UNCLUTTERED:Australian umpire Simon Taufel displays a remarkable clarity of thought while fielding questions.

Chennai: Celebrated umpire Simon Taufel talks about commitment and integrity. Much like the manner he arrives at a verdict, the Australian displays a remarkable clarity of thought while fielding questions.

“At the end of the day, it is about how you answer the man who looks back at you from the mirror. You have to be true to yourself,” he said during a conversation with The Hindu here on Wednesday.

The 40-year-old Taufel will be appearing in his third ICC ODI World Cup when he officiates in the 2011 edition beginning on February 19. As he revealed, the 2003 competition in Southern Africa was the turning point of his career. “Before that I had umpired in only one international series, the tri-series in Morocco, outside Australia. So the World Cup really set things up for me.”

Best umpire

Subsequently, Taufel has embarked on a journey of success and recognition – he was adjudged ICC's Umpire of the Year from 2004 to 2008. “We, the Emirate's ICC panel of umpires and match referees, will form the 15th side of the World Cup. Yes, we are a team in our own right.”

The Umpire Decision Review System will be implemented – from the quarterfinals – for the first time in the World Cup. What are Taufel's thoughts on the use of technology?

He said, “I believe the UDRS should be used in every match. It's much about arriving at the right balance between technology and the human element. The emphasis should be on getting maximum decisions right.”

The Australian added, “Each team is allowed only two unsuccessful appeals in an innings. So, it is also about how the players use technology. The standing umpires still have a very big role to play.”

Job under scrutiny

Taufel conceded that an umpire's job, often a thankless one, was under more scrutiny than ever before. “We are up against 27 cameras following the game from different angles, the stump cam, the snicko, the hawk-eye, the hot spot. On occasions, the noise is so much that you do not hear anything. You need to remain calm. Sometimes you go by your gut feeling. You have to forget the odd mistake quickly and bounce back.”

He elaborated, “Decision making is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. There are times when a piece is missing. This is where your experience comes in.”

Taufel is not a great believer in either trusting the word of a player when the legality of a catch is disputed or reading too much into the cricketers' body language. “If you accept everything that a cricketer says then you do not need umpires. Also, getting influenced by the player reaction can be a dangerous path to walk.”

Preparation

He stressed preparation. “It is a demanding job and you need to stay in the best shape, physically and mentally. This includes eye vision training where we use computer programmes to strengthen eye muscles.”

Apart from his exemplary decision-making attributes, Taufel controls a match particularly well, even when frayed tempers threaten to undermine a contest. “You should not step in too quickly or take too long to step in. The players are not robots. They should be given some leeway to express themselves. But then, you should know when a line is being crossed. Often, it is a thin line,” said Taufel.

Then he queries with a smile, “Do you know the umpires got 9.5 per cent (out of 10) of the decisions right last year?” Taufel had made his point.

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