Almanac Cricket: Deaf, Blind and Clueless – The Start of the Season


 The start of a cricketer’s season is like a second marriage, things start with high hopes but everyone is nervous. Will the season be like last year, or the previous marriage? It’s much the same for a cricket umpire. You look forward to the matches starting, but you can remember that terrible balls-up where you allowed an seventh delivery in an over that resulted in the dismissal of that captain that you gave out LBW earlier in the season where you were the only person who didn’t hear the inside edge. Gee I hope I don’t get him this year. The player is probably hoping the same.


Modern sporting-speak goes on about the process being the important thing, not the result. Get the process correct and the result will follow. There are some processes that cricket umpires follow in September each year to get the season underway.


The first is going to meetings where you meet all your cricket friends. I have blokes that I spend winter, Saturday arvos with, behind the goals at the Brunswick Street footy ground, but in summer they disappear from my life to be replaced by my cricket friends. I wonder where they go.


We are lucky in the Merks, well it’s not luck at all, that we have a full book of umpires. Right down to our ninth grade, we have umpires in every game. We don’t call the Ninths, the Ninths, but D Sunday. No one wants to play in the Ninths. The Grades, therefore are titled to hide the level of cricket played, and are called  A, A Reserve, A Sunday, A Something else. Then the letter B gets a flogging: B, B Sunday. There are several variations on C which I won’t bore you with But the Merks have something that no other competition can come anywhere close to.


The Mercantile D Sunday Grade is by far the lowest standard of cricket in the entire world that has any umpires in it and the matches generally have two. In any other competition only the top few grades have appointed umpires.


D Grade games are not easy games to umpire if you actually want to umpire properly. Most of the players are poor cricketers. I called a no ball in D Grade once where the bowler transgressed with both his front and back foot. Bowlers run down the middle of the pitch routinely and the players have little knowledge of the Laws. You get all sorts of odd happenings that never occur in higher grades.


I have put a question to hundreds of umpires over the years


“If you have to have a game with no umpires would you want it in A Grade or D Sunday?”


Nearly without exception people acknowledge that A Grade captains can run a game of cricket very well but D Sunday????? However, often the nicest blokes, the aging club stalwarts, are the captains in D Grade, playing one more season (or they tell their wives ) and you spend three hours after the match together, drinking beer, reliving that final from 2002.


Uniforms including hats, shirts etc have to be purchased. The new umpires are now required to attend Cricket Victoria’s training, our own training and everyone has tests that one has to pass. Some of the Association rules have been changed so the new handbook is my bedtime reading.


A few umpires are no longer with us. Some retire, some move associations or move interstate. This year we have lost Adrian Crawley, an absolute gentleman, and the first, very high quality umpire I ever umpired with. It is sad to see them go.


But what everyone is on tender hooks for is your first appointment for the year. We have an ‘Appointment Officer’ who has the thankless task of herding enough cats to all the Merks matches. I will introduce him later in the year. He does not have an easy time early in the season; lots of new umpires that require a deft hand, as, for example, about one third of our umpires do not have a car. Some of our grounds are hard to get to by public transport so the appointments officer has to juggle all sorts of issues.


He announced that we have 29 umpires unavailable for the first round, an astounding number, so we will be stretched thin this weekend. We could go out and recruit more umpires, but then many would miss out each week and that is not fair on anyone.


I received an email to inform all us umpires that most of the games have been called off so now I have an anxious wait to see if I get a game. I have already done a practice match but nothing is like calling ‘play’ to start the first match of the year.



  1. Mark Duffett says

    “about one third of our umpires do not have a car” Is that an indication most are too young to have a licence? Surely a good sign if so?

  2. Many of the umpires are PHD students from the Sus- Continent, which is something that will be a blog post in itself

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