September 19, 2011

Aleem Dar adjudged best umpire for third year running


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Gone are the days when umpiring in cricket was condemned to be a thankless job. In the past, when the home umpires used to supervise Tests and One-day Internationals, it was a real tough job at hand with the administrators as well as the spectators expecting decisions of their choice.

The likes of Aleem Dar and Simon Taufel, representatives of the new crop of umpires, are fortunate to be standing in an era when they have to act neutrally and that too under the umbrella of a powerful match referee, designated by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Cricket umpiring no more is just another profession with the men in white coat getting peanuts for braving so much pressure for five days on a trot during a Test match. It has become a very rewarding job, particularly for those having made it to the top.

The umpires in the ICC elite panel are in high demand throughout the year with so much international cricket going on of late. They are not only financially rewarded but also earn recognition for their performance in the different corners of the world, which is monitored closely.

The modern umpires, however, are challenged if not threatened by the excessive use of technology which has been experimented with mixed results during the last years. It goes to the credit of the top umpires who have kept performing day in and day out.

Pakistan’s Aleem Dar remains a picture of confidence all along in the cricket field and his decision-making has been spot on most of the times. It came as no surprise to me when he was handed over the David Shepherd Trophy for the Umpire of the Year for third year running in the ICC Awards ceremony held recently in London.

He outshined Australia’s Simon Taufel, who holds the record of winning the award five times, once more. If he continues to deliver in the manner he has been doing, there’s very little doubt in anyone’s mind about him overtaking this record in not too distant future.

Aleem Dar is only 43 at the moment and in all likelihood he should be standing in the middle for many more years. He looks the fittest of all umpires and his grace and poise in the field are second to none. He may take an extra second or two before making a judgment but mostly they are perfect.

Taufel was alright in the list of top umpires, nominated for the award, but there looked an element of surprise in the selection of Ian Gould and Steve Davis. The nomination of Davis seemed staggering for he had given two horrible leg-before decisions on successive deliveries in an India-New Zealand Test match last season.

If my memory serves me right VVS Laxman and Zaheer Khan were at the receiving end with the then New Zealand skipper, Daniel Vettori, being the beneficiary on both occasions.

Thankfully Davis was not chosen for the award, which was deservedly won by Aleem Dar, voted by the 10 Full Member captains as well as eight-man elite panel of ICC match referees.

Aleem Dar has had to spend eight months away from his family, based in Lahore, but he has certainly made them and the entire nation proud by his accomplishments.

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