Men behind those good and the bad decisions
By Shamseer Jaleel
Umpire's job is one of the most difficult jobs since he has to concentrate for each and every delivery. If it is a Test match almost he has to be alert for the 90 overs which takes more than 6 hours of standing in the middle. These days whether it is Test or One Days umpires are pressurised by the players immensely. Unwanted appeals are there especially to put the umpire under pressure and by hook or crook to get the batsmen out. Even the players are under severe pressure to keep their positions intact.

Because of the high technology available and giant screens available in most of the grounds, replays are shown once the decision is given. If this is a wrong decision then the umpire is criticised by the crowd at the ground as well as viewers watching on TV.

Whether it is One Day or Test match the approach by most of the umpires are same. One day before the start of the match they meet the groundsman and inspect the pitch. They also meet their colleague umpire and the all-important boss the Match Referee.

Since ICC appointed umpires know each other very well it makes their life very easy. On the match day 2 hours before the schedule start the umpires arrive at the grounds and meet the 3rd umpire or they call the TV umpire. At this time the club secretary will hand over the match ball to the senior umpire. The umpires do an inspection about 30 minutes before the start.

Since the match referee look after the toss the umpires need not go for the toss but they have a chat with both captains. When they are at the centre they have to concentrate every delivery and if it is a One-Day match they have to count the number of overs bowled by each bowlers.

Finally end of the day they meet their fellow umpires and the match referee and discuss how the day went and what went wrong etc. All the players should obey the umpires and if they are found guilty for unwanted play or abusing other players generally they are warned. But if it is goes out of hand they are reported to the top man, the Match Referee who will severely deal with them. After all the umpires are humans they are bound to make mistakes.

But if this happens very regularly they might loose the contract with the ICC, which in return they will loose the handsome payments made to them by ICC. In the 1975, 1979 and 1983 World Cup matches which were played in England all umpires were Englishmen. But it changed in 1987 when India and Pakistan hosted the World Cup.

At the moment there are only 8 umpires in the ICC panel. Since there are 10 Test playing nations and most of them are involved in Test series, all these 8 umpires are continually engaged. The most senior umpires in the ICC panel are Shepherd, Bucknor and Venkat.

Promoting attractive cricket
In the past decade much has been done towards the development of the game in this country. In all areas there has been progress slow but steady. Cricket is the most popular sport and the only team sport where Sri Lanka competes at an international level. It is not just competing, the country is accepted as one of the best in the sport. The game is growing steadily.

Looking at the sport globally, the same could not be said about the super powers in the game. England, South Africa and West Indies are facing stiff competition from other sports and other attractions (or distractions) of life. Should the game not be attractive in these countries, then, the desire goes out of the window.

No more do youngsters want to be reserves or be on the field all day should they not get a decent bat or/and a bowl or umpire or score whilst their mates enjoy a game. Time has become so precious. Time is achievement, progress and riches. The individual has become number one. Tough in a sport such as cricket where team work is an absolute ingredient.

Barry Richards, the former brilliant batsman from South Africa now a TV commentator and cricket businessman, made certain observations recently, during a lecture at the Colin Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket forum, held recently at Lord's. His observations were of cricket in England. A country he excelled for over a decade playing professionally for Hampshire in the county circuit.

With technology and changing lifestyles has come a generation accustomed to things happening at a far greater pace a generation demanding action, color, drama, spectacle a generation raised on sensation. And let's face it, our dear old game was not fashioned for all this. Once the second most popular sport in England the summer game is slipping down the list. If you look to the grassroots, it's clear we face a problem I would even say a crisis.

It's bad enough that in this country the home of the game - county games take place before a tiny sprinkling of mainly elderly spectators. Or that many exciting Tests are played out before less than full houses. Or that the quality of performance below the top level is falling as the player base dwindles. And if that's not bad enough, the real cause for concern is that youngsters who in the past would have dreamed of playing Test cricket at Lord's are now much more likely to dream of playing Highbury.

A Channel 4 survey of 14 to 24-year-olds recently found a disturbing indifference to cricket. We must attract youngsters to play it and youngsters to watch it. Because without them, the game will die. So I welcome the 20 over games, although why introduce them so cautiously? In my view if we feel compelled to change to survive we should do so wholeheartedly, with confidence and style.

We should ask whether selectors should encourage more attacking cricket by giving players the kind of (at least short-term) security that encourages them to take risks. Should there also be a bonus element for fielding? Should we build into the scoring system a bonus element for entertainment value? Should we take more action to speed the game up?

Should we downgrade the importance of averages and statistics so as to discourage performances that look better in Wisden than they do on the field? Will statistics reveal in later years the difference between 100 scored by a crowd thrilling Adam Gilchrist or 100 scratched out over twice the time by a lesser entertainer? Does it matter? I think it does: It is the Gilchrists who will bring the young back to the game.

What matters? Take the first Test between England and Sri Lanka. It was clear within a couple of overs on the last day that England had no inclination to try to win. There are those who say: Well done, they saved the match. Yet, there was hardly anyone in the ground. If you were a sixteen-year-old deciding what mattered this summer, the cricket or the World Cup football, what would you have turned to after you had endured an hour or two of that Monday at Lord's?

Some prophetic far sighted thoughts from the master batsman. The popularity and participation in the game is on the rise in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It will take a long while for the pendulum to begin its swing away from that. The Australians were clever to look into the future after the Packer affair and have built a solid infrastructure. They spare no pains in a constant search for progress and excellence.

The cricket world has to be aware that they have to make the game attractive to keep pace with the challenges of the 21st century.

Golf Festival a resounding success
The Tony Whitham-Jannine Weeratunge duo brought out the best in their organising skills to turn a harassing assignment into a resounding success. The SriLankan Golf Festival at the Victoria Golf Club Digana over 4 tiring days was most enjoyable and played in a great spirit of camaraderie To join with them was slender leggy Dishini Abeywardena PR Manager SirLankan ably assisted by another formidable duo Nirmalie Paldano and Hyacinth de Silva

Foreign invasion
There was a massive invasion of foreign participants from all over the world and to a man and woman they expressed absolute delight in the lush beauty of the country, the warm and friendly people and most of all the elegance of the Digana Course. They were thrilled to be afforded 4 rounds of golf in superb weather finishing into a tremendous spirit of friendliness at the 19th hole where quite a few performed creditably. I was not surprised to hear a few say "Thanks for the intoxicating hospitality SriLankan we shall come again with many more". A signal tribute to the warmth shown by the hosts headed by Peter Hill and Chandana de Silva who were absolutely lavish.

Amrith shines
Offer the little fella an Airline Ticket and he controls his flamboyant swing, measures his approach shots and gets spot on when putting. That is exactly what he did over two rounds to collect 62 gross points, a load of accolades and an Air Ticket to any destination of his choosing. Alain Gyi came behind him with 59 points.

Iskander excels
Iskander Saludin is an attractive stroke player. He hits a helluva long ball, plays miserly with his strokes and rarely gets extravagant. He was amply rewarded with 73 and a UL Ticket for collecting the best nett score. Wasantha de Silva another strong contender came behind with 71.

Ladies impress
Two Ex-Ladies Champion of yesteryear outshone the younger contenders quite comfortably. Suwaneetha Selvaratnam struck a gross 60 to beat Yvonne "Duchess" Abayaratne by one point and capture a long haul UL Air Ticket and applause at the Award Ceremony. Suwaneetha followed this up by picking the nett score competition beating Indra Tibblin by a thin margin. Selvaratnam went further with her vast experience and skill to win the Seniors event. 3 wins in one tournament was a helluva achievement for the good lady.

Impressive brehens
Hans Brehens an ENT Specialist from Portland, Oregon on a work assignment in Bahrain was in splendid form on the Course and in the description of his play. It was a shot by shot experience for us including his inseparable friend Paul Frost a Teethcare Specialist from the Sunshine state of Australia.

"Great fairways, supreb greens but an absolute misery of hole No. 2 caused me a painful heartburn" was what he had to say over several Carlsbergs at the pleasurable 19th. He won the seniors Event comfortably and with beaming enthusiasm he was telling almost the whole world that he was coming for the next UL Festival if not earlier. Frost has agreed to join with a few more.

Gymkhana events
Jackie Dias won the Ladies Longest Drive with a stunning scorcher. Youne won the men's comfortably. In the nearest to the pin contest Indra Tibblin was unmatchable.

Nett scores
Prizes were awarded for the best nett scores each day. Navin de Silva of AIRBUS fame went streets ahead of every competitor with a stunning nett 42 points the best for the tournament. He was beaming all day up to the last hour. Roshini Sangani smashed 38 points on the first day, Anel de Silva plundered 38 on the 2nd day and Chris Halloway was spectacular with 40 points on the final day which caused him to give the Bostock clan sitting round him a ball by ball commentary on his memorable achievement.

Saturday Night was the big triumph for SriLankan when they presented an absolutely stunning floor show of Sri Lanka talent which many volunteered was comparable with the best they had seen in their well spread travels. The show was magnificent to say the least.

The irrepressible Peter Hill excelled in fun filled speech craft at the opening of the Stage Show. He received thunderous applause as he promised the party would fade to crack of dawn filled with unlimited food and beverages.

Michael Dias & Lalin Samarawickrema defied the laws of gravity maintaining balance with dozens of visitors joyfully joining enthusiastically in the popular Baila Sessions which was led by the colourful personality Chandana de Silva. David & Jack Koch from Sydney were active participants in every event. They played great golf but not good enough to win. Excellent company at the 19th they promised to come again as their country of birth still remains close to the heart.

The Award Ceremony was superbly organised and pretty slick. The C.E.O. Peter Hill thanked the world of participants and the Whitham-Weeratunge duo. After a massive round of applause Chandana de Silva took over the vote of thanks eloquently. It was a tremendous long weekend, splendid Golf, delightful hosts and happy memories.

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