Kolkata: Umpires will need to officiate in a fair amount of 'practice matches' or 'trial games' to work on their judgment skills before they are back in the thick of things once normalcy returns, feels Simon Taufel. One of the best to have umpired in the gentleman's game, Taufel feels that they might all be a bit rusty due to this unforeseen break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"What's unique about the game of cricket is that we don't practice like we play. Yes we have got net sessions and things like that but ultimately, it's not simulated training in the true sense," Taufel, five-time ICC Umpire of the Year, told IANS in an exclusive interview.
"Fitness and all is great, that's a foundation..fundamental. For umpires, one of the fundamentals in knowledge. But they are not able to practice and work on their judgment skills because they can't get outside. And one of the best ways of doing it is actually in matches," said the 49-year old Australian, widely regarded as one of the best the game has seen.
"I am imagining that a lot of umpires are going to be a little bit rusty as they go back out there for the first time. And I would suggest that they are going to have to do a fair amount of practice matches or trial games to work on some of those judgment skills, routine skills to get them back into good habits," he said.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell recently said that some form of ball-tampering could be allowed in cricket in order to help the bowlers as saliva and sweat are now considered health risks.
"I would not get too far ahead of the game at the moment. What will occur is that government bodies and lawmakers will engage with medical experts and they will take medical advise into consideration," said Taufel when asked how that would change the role of an umpire.
"A robust discussion will take place with very educated people in this space. They will make a determination with best interests of the players and the umpires. They will look at the practicality and also the balance between bat and ball. Cricket umpires don't make the laws, we just apply them," he explained.
There is a lot of talk of cricket resuming behind closed doors. Asked how it will be for umpires if cricket is played in front of empty stands, Taufel said: "As a cricket umpire, (packed crowd) brings lots of benefits and lots of drawbacks.
"The drawbacks include the noise and distraction. Therefore, it is lot more challenging to officiate in a noisy, full, packed stadium. The benefit is you rise to the occasion. You elevate your performance.
"For most of our career, we officiate matches of cricket without lots of spectators around. I was part of round about 300 international matches -- either on-field, third umpire or fourth umpire -- in front of lots of people on most of those occasions.
"I did a similar number of cricket matches without crowd or spectators. So what you're doing is you're actually going back to the type of cricket you were more familiar with in the early stages of your career. If I go from a World Cup final in front of a full house back to a first-class match at the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) in front of maybe 500 people...that can all happen in the same season," said Taufel who has umpired in 74 Tests, 174 one day internationals and 34 T20I matches between 1999-2012.
"In every professional sport and in every walk of life, we adapt. If that's what we have to do, we will adapt to that," Taufel opined on how it will be for all participants in sport when they perform in front of empty stands.
"It will feel strange at the beginning. But we will get used to it. But sport also happens at the community level and not only at the professional level," he pointed.
"There are some fundamentals we have to get right to make sure that when we see sport on TV, it means that we can play sport at the community level as well. We need to make sure we get those fundamentals of safety and welfare correct and agreed upon."