It’s 2.15am here in Dubai as I sit in my room, watching the traffic speed along Sheikh Zayed Road and continue my preparation for an umpiring workshop and participation in the ICC WT20 Qualifying event. Jet lag is a wonderful thing, you shouldn’t fight it and just make the most of the advantages and quiet time it presents you with.
The last month has been a very busy one and here is a snap shot of what has been going on. From the last news update, we travelled back to Dubai for the 3rd and 4th ODIs between Pakistan and England. I was on field with Aleem for the 3rd match and TV umpire for the last match. It was good to stand with Aleem again as we had not worked together since the final of the World Cup in Mumbai. We had a good game with a few testing moments from Stuart Broad. Pakistan struggled in this match to score 222 off their 50 overs while England did it easy with the bat thanks to a gutsy 111 not out from Kevin Pietersen who seemed to truly silence his cricitcs – his first ODI century in 3 years but he finally dominated the Pakistan spinners. England had now secured the ODI series with this win.
I then had a couple of days off and caught up with an old mate from Sydney who is an excellent eye surgeon. Brian Harrisberg used to perform my eye examinations as part of my Cricket Australia fitness test many years ago. He was in Abu Dhabi on a “conference” and contacted me and suggested we catch up with a game of golf. Brian organized the tee time at Yass Links, while I just had to organize a car and driver from Dubai. Brian plays off 3 and I’m off 17. He did me on the first few holes but I came back as strong as the wind we were fighting around the course. Magnificent course and views with some interesting golf in between – made harder by the fact that I lost my sand wedge in the first few holes and played a lot of chips and bunker shots with a pitching wedge!
The wind and dust was so strong at times as we moved around the course that it made seeing where the drives went rather difficult. I had to laugh though when Brian (an eye surgeon and sight specialist) would say, “man did you see where that went, I can’t see anything out here!” This sort of comment raised some doubts about the validity of my old eye tests!?
Some of you might be thinking that there was a lot of golf on this trip – well, when you tour with Jeff Crowe and you are in a country with so many great courses, that’s what happens. Jeff and a mutual friend by the name of Peter Boland, had invited me to join them at an Emirates golf day….well, night really. We played the Faldo course at the Emirates club at night. I’d never played golf at night before, so we decided to give it a go. To do this well, you really have to trust your swing and distance as you lose sight of your ball as it goes above the floodlights. It was really unusual, very pretty at night with the lights of the buildings and much harder to find your ball off the fairway! I don’t think Jeff and I will be invited back in a hurry as he took out two nearest the pin awards and I managed 2nd with 36 Stableford points.
The last ODI match was a very straight forward affair – the crowd numbers were very disappointing. In a lot of ways the 4th match went the same way as the 3rd one. Pakistan made 237 and England got there with an over to spare as Pietersen scored his second century (130) in as many games. The big shock was Cook not scoring any runs for the first time in the series. It was great to work with the team below – good memories…
L-R (Jeff “you want to play golf?” Crowe, Ahsan Raza, Simon Taufel, Danny “Dengue” Ryan, Mohsin “it shall be done immediately – why not sir” Butt, Kumar Dharmasena, Zameer “yes please” Haider and Peter “pass the Tabasco” Manuel).
Following that tour, I went back to Australia to umpire a couple of ODIs in the Commonwealth Bank series. I had two days to recover from the journey and then umpire at the SCG. Tom Parker, the curator, reminded me that I had not umpired here for over three years when I had then officiated a domestic one day game with our 4th umpire for the day, Gerard Abood. Wow. It was a special occasion for me made even the more special with my family and friends present. The SCG Trust had been kind enough to provide me with a private suite for the day, so 16 special people were able to watch the game, and me umpire, in comfort. It was my way of saying thank you to Helen, the kids, mum, and a lot of close friends who had supported me and helped me achieve so much in cricket umpiring. Thanks to all of you for so much.
Every match at the SCG always seems to produce something different, a little drama, and this was no different thanks to an “obstructing the field” appeal from the Indian team on David Hussey plus a run out appeal on Sachin Tendulkar when he had to run around Brett Lee. Both incidents caused much debate but Billy Bowden and I got through it and it was great to walk off the SCG unscathed. We finished the night with a couple of special moments, firstly, I want back onto the ground after the match and collected the kids from the suite and took them on to the pitch and they got to meet Tom Parker and feel what it was like to stand in the middle of the SCG. Sophie, Jack and Harry were a-buzz. We walked off and they got to meet Tom Moody and Michael Slater who were doing some commentary – it was funny seeing big Tom next to little Sophie. The family then enjoyed a few drinks and a lot of chewing gum up in the Ted Wykes umpires’ room post match – a great day, great feeling and great memories – all shared with some great people.
We went back to the hotel, the family stayed with me that night and we woke up to this view…
No rest though, the family departed the hotel at 8am for school, and I was on a 2pm flight to Hobart with Indian team for the next match tomorrow.
India went into the game needing a win with a bonus point to have any chance of qualifying for the finals. The weather was cold for Asad Rauf and myself, so jackets were a must. Sri Lanka must have fancied themselves scoring a credible 320 off their 50 overs. We started the second half with a power failure at the ground – no TV, no cameras, and one light tower not working. It was somewhat refreshing umpiring an international with no one able to use evidence that any decision was incorrect. We got TV and our 3rd umpire back after several overs. Tendulkar and Sehwag got off to a flying start, until Sachin walked across his stumps and gave me one of the easiest LBW decisions to make. It was at this point I was very happy that the TV broadcast was back – could you imagine me giving Sachin out LBW for 39, him missing out on his 100th 100, and the commentators telling everyone that I gave him out LBW and there being no replay to show everyone how plumb he was!?
Well, what we saw next from Virat Kholi would have to go down as one of the best ODI batting displays ever seen. Kholi just took the Sri Lankan bowling apart. He middled everything, so much so that he actually split the middle of his bat – he came up to me and told me he needed to change his bat. He was no annoyed to lose his favourite stick with a 10cm split in the middle of the sweet spot. He stroked an amazing 133 not out off 86 balls. No one seemed to remember post match that Dilshan had scored 160 or that Sangakkara had also scored 105 in the first innings. Only 3400 people at the ground saw India score 3/321 inside 37 overs! It’s not often that I stand there as an umpire and just admire a performance, but this was one of those rare moments.
Back to the family for seven days and back to the flooding rain. I tried to get some work done around the house but the rain stopped almost everything from happening outside. No such problems here in Dubai though, it’s raining sunshine every day. Lots of work to do now, (no golf – I didn’t even pack my shoes for it) and looking forward to working with the Associate and International Panel umpires.
Having just passed the 3rd anniversary of the Lahore terrorist attack, it is a friendly reminder to us all to live every day as if it were your last and hug those people most important to you.
Take care, Simon.