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In the Middle - Kevin Gallagher pens his thoughts on another new season

Posted in In the Middle

Article One – Start of a New Season


So when does the ‘New Season’ actually start? Like the first crop of potatoes it probably takes a few weeks before the quality appears.


With cricket being played all over the world it would be easy to never really switch off from the game at all. Nowadays practically every ball of international cricket is televised so it is really easier to watch much more cricket during the winter than it is during the summer. Every week seems to have an event of some sort – and that is before you even consider the way that the international programme is arranged. Sky Sports boasted of 39 hours of continuos coverage recently, even iron man Connolly couldn’t do that.


But the reality is that from an umpiring perspective there is really a considerable break between the second week in September and the first week of April the following year. There are all sorts of things that can happen – people have had families in less time – and many things to divert attention away.


Some people have an involvement in another sport – perhaps vicariously. There is always the thorny issue of renegotiating relations with loved ones who feel neglected at the end of the season. And of course there is always the attraction of the Winter Training courses. Really there is a course of some sort to fit almost everyone at this stage, and even for those that do not fancy a course there is the regular Monthly Workshops to keep minds moving and friendships anew.


Attendance at the workshops is particularly useful. The topics covered and the issues addressed are varied and it is hard to go away without having learned something or at least have the germ of an idea planted in the back of your head. The faces at these meetings are generally familiar – too familiar perhaps – but there is always enough of a spread of talent and experience to foster good discussion and consideration.


Then there is the Annual Conference. This is the meeting of the Ireland Association of Cricket Umpires & Scorers to educate, inform and debate on issues of importance to the game across the provinces. Of course some are no more informed or educated after they leave than before but it is always a good chance to put a face to the name (and a name to the face) and to meet those from outside our normal hinterland. It is not that big a cricket community in Ireland – there should probably be more effort put into standardisation and common thought across Associations.


So you’ve spent at least one night a month during the winter thinking about being an umpire. How do you consider approaching the season proper? We would all like to say that we fervently undertake a rigorous programme of physical and mental activity to prepare us properly for the challenges to come. But the reality is that we are more likely to start thinking about the season about the time that the clock changes and you realise that ‘the pre-season meeting must be soon, I have no match cards left….


About the time that you realise the meeting is upon us (what do you mean it was last week?) you have probably started trying to remember which part of the attic that you left your umpires kit. And did I use my shoes to cut the grass last September, remember when the grass was a bit wetter than was ideal to be cutting?


You’ve received your list of appointed matches and it’s the weekend before the season. You get your clothing together from wherever it ended up after came out of the wash last September. You’ve read the regulations, or as you used to say in school ‘I read over them, sir’. Your mind wanders to the thoughts of the season to come, the opportunities for greatness, the baking hot days, the carnival atmosphere, the camaraderie and bathos of a day well spent in good company. It’s amazing how the long winter can balm the mind and provide anaesthetic to the morasses of slights, grumbles and slurs.


Human nature being what it is, it is likely that the night before the game you will bundle your stuff in the bag, leave it in the hall and sit down in front of the telly after a hard day’s work. Your mind might briefly consider stories of umpires that spend every day reading one of the laws and keep the regulations on the desk in work so that they can read them while on hold to technical support. But the reality is that you’ve had a long week in work and just want to sit in front of the telly before collapsing into bed to sleep the sleep of the weary. Sure whatever happens tomorrow will happen tomorrow, right…..?


But if you were going to set some goals for yourself for the year what could they be? Show up at the right ground at roughly the right time? Try and remember to get cash so that you can buy a drink after the game? Try and remember to leave that cash in the car with the rest of your valuables?


How about the following?

·         Make myself available as often as possible, and once I commit to being available I don’t drop out

·         Aim for at least 15 matches in the year, it’s amazing what a couple of midweek evening matches will do to boost the numbers

·         Work with my colleague as much as possible – before, during and after the match

·         Send the right forms to the right people at the right time

·         Make sure that I know the regulations backwards, but keep a set in the back pocket just in case

·         Try and get on better with all the players, even if they are a bit annoying sometimes

·         Take the enjoyable moments and use them to spur me on to greater things