Helmets and Parachutes

We waste a lot of our time doing things that don’t matter. One of my favourite expressions is ‘that’s like jumping out of an aircraft at thirty thousand feet without a parachute but putting on a helmet’. The helmet won’t do anything useful. I thought of this as I used the high-pressure car cleaner water jet that lives in the lower basement of the block of flats I now live in.


It was useful on my cars but then I got out the white Nike’s I wear while umpiring in the best local cricket association in the world: The Merks, and gave my shoes a blast. I have always had the cleanest car and shoes of all the umpires which does bring the parachute and helmet to mind. The players would probably like my eye sight to be better but presentation does mean something.


I was umpiring yesterday with another first season umpire, another candidate for Best First Year Umpire. He wants to learn, soaking up information and there is no sign of any zebra tendencies but he did make a mistake continually at first. When I describe the mistake, you will probably be muttering ‘parachute and helmet Phil’ but I think I will change your mind.


When a bowler delivers a no ball or a wide the umpire is required to initially, and very loudly, call and signal either no ball or a wide. This initial call-and-signal is purely for the players out on the ground. Once the ball goes dead the umpire is then required, under the Laws, to then give another signal that the scorers are required, under the Laws, to respond to, usually by waving their hands.


Because I am training first year umpires and demonstrating proper technique I exaggerate this process somewhat by giving the first call and signal, dropping my arms hard enough that they slap against my legs. I then take a few steps away from my position when the ball has gone dead and give the signal to the scorers. There is a definite gap between the two signals.


The reasons that most would give for this being a requirement under the Laws of Cricket are below:


  1. It’s the Law
  2. It makes sure that the umpire watches the ball while it is live. I have seen several new umpires looking at the scorers when a run out threatens at their end.
  3. Makes sure the scorers get the score correct


But I have another reason which is all about lulling the players into a false sense of security. A few years ago I heard a talk titled ‘The Rhythms of the Game’ where a very experienced umpire went through the myriad of little things that umpire do that lets the game flow, keeps the players behaving and keeps the umpires out of the spotlight.


He thought it important that all umpires in the Merks do everything the same way. We all wear the same uniform but I think it important that the players notice that I call and signal exactly the same way as my partner, and we call and signal the same way as the umpires did last week, and the players know that the umpires next week will move, call and signal the same way as we did this week.


So young R….n and I worked on his field craft and he started to get it by the end. It’s a lot of fun when you have someone who is a sponge.


So, what about my shoes and the high-pressure cleaner. I expect the batsmen next week to be complaining about the glare from the cleanest shoes in Fawkner Park.



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