The umpiring journey: Being presented with some challenges

Mark Dunford at Three Bridges
Mark Dunford at Three Bridges

This week represented a new challenge for me - umpiring your mates.

I was umpiring Three Bridges II v Brighton II. The 2nd XI league works differently to the 1st XIs regarding umpires.

If I was taken off a game because of my ties to a club, I would be a outraged. It would question my integrity.

Mark Dunford

In the 1st XI the league appoints two umpires and in the the second XI, the home side provides one umpire and the league appoints an ‘away’ official.

So I was the ‘away’ umpire at the club I have spent nine years playing for.

Last year I was captain of Three Bridges 3rd XI, and there were players in the 2nd XI who I was skipper of during the 2015 campaign.

So there is always that fear that players you know will try to take advantage of you, or if the other team get wind of the fact you have played for the team, they might think you will be biased.

In my past experience as a player, when we have had a home umpire, they were so scared of being biased that they went the other way and were biased towards the away team!

But I had no fear of either situation happening. When I am appointed to a match, I am an umpire and that’s it. I am not a former player, I am not a fan, I am an umpire.

It made me think of the situation with football referee Kevin Friend, who was taken off a Tottenham game because he was a Leicester City fan towards the end of the Premier League season. If I was taken off a game because of my ties to a club, I would be a outraged. It would question my integrity. It’s easy for me to say, but it wouldn’t even come into my head to think ‘oh I used to play with him, might not give him out’. What’s the point of me being an umpire if I am going to think like that?

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But when I turned up to the game, I was presented with a challenge I didn’t think I would have to deal with.

My pre-match ritual (which you are given guidance by the ECB) involves meeting with the groundsman. I knew the groundsman so I just had to hunt him down, but he wasn’t in his shed.

There was lots of machinery about, including a very antique heavy roller at one end right on the bowlers run up. ‘Where’s Gavin? I asked Bridges skipper Mark Church. ‘He’s gone to Findon to get some hydraulic fluid for the roller’, came the reply.

Sorry what?! There we were, 45 minutes play with no groundsman and a broken down heavy roller.

Ten minutes later he rang the club to say he was on his way back - for anyone that knows Findon is at best a 40 minute drive to Bridges.

So I got the captain’s together and told them of the situation and we decided to delay the toss until 12.45. When we got to that point, there was a bit of rain about and no sign of the groundsman. So we decided to see where we were at 1pm (the scheduled start time). The Bridges players tried to budge the roller themselves with minimal success.

Gavin rang again at 1.10pm to say he was five minutes away so we did the toss.

When Gavin did arrive and put the fluid in, frustratingly it still didn’t work. So Steve Brown go on a motorised mower and managed to push the roller off - which made for some comical viewing.

After that rigmarole, the game started at 1.30pm, which meant no time was lost fortunately and good game of cricket was played out in a great spirit. I felt it was my most complete performance yet as an umpire.

I just hope next time (Roffey II v Preston Nomas II) I don’t have to deal with a broken down heavy roller.

Follow @MarKSDunford (twitter) or Sussexcricketumpire (Instagram)

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