Wednesday 30 December 2015


The first step to establishing and maintaining focus must start before the match. Talk to each other about what level of support and assistance you want during the day. Most umpires understand that your focus should be at a high level the moment you step onto the field. Try this approach to improving your focus.
  • Understand that the nature of the job dictates that you will get distracted and upset from time to time. Pressure affects everyone and you are no exception. No one is perfect and no one ever will be. All umpires make mistakes – the better ones make considerably fewer and are always working towards “zero tolerance”.
  • Start to understand and recognize the patterns of your anxiety. Combined with your personality type, seek to learn which circumstances are most likely to cause a loss of focus –e.g. excessive appealing, bowlers overstepping, sledging, weather conditions, physical fatigue etc.
  • Start to practice skills to combat the cause of you losing focus. Positive self talk or relaxation exercises are two skills you can employ to stay focused when circumstances dictate otherwise.
  • In the case of missed calls, realize and understand that you will possibly make mistakes. When you do, regroup quickly and acknowledge the mistake to yourself and let your emotions go. Refocus and deal only “in this moment” forgetting about the past over which you have no control and concentrate on the next ball.

Saturday 26 December 2015

The 3 + 3 Effect

There are 3 main reasons why umpires lose focus and if affects 3 different types of umpires. It depends solely on the personality of the umpire. Understand which type of umpire you are and be willing to make changes.

1) Querying Decisions: A player or Captain constantly querying decisions might distract the over assertive umpire. Protracted discussions take place with the umpire trying to get back “control” of the situation when in fact the source of the distraction was out of his control anyway. He is distracted in his concentration and focus thereby opening the door to the possibility of a poor decision.

2) The Missed Call: The perfectionist umpire will dwell on a missed call. Even the best umpires are not perfect so don’t feel you should be. Your pride may be dented but accept the mistake and get the rhythm back quickly.

3) Doesn’t Want To Upset Anyone: The “social umpire” might be too concerned with being liked by everyone and lose sight of the task at hand. Excessive appealing and constant pressure will rattle the social umpire and all he wants to do is get things over with resulting in a rash of poor decisions.

It is essential that you begin to understand what personality type you are and what goals and aspirations you have. It is important that you realize and understand what buttons get pushed in certain situations.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Why Officials Lose Focus

Outside pressures or personal life issues are a reality for all umpires and can certainly affect anyone’s mindset during a game. The better umpires are able to put all outside issues aside for the period of time necessary to do the job. Any umpires aspiring to that level of competence must be able to make themselves aware of the common things which happen during a game that can cause a lapse in focus. You can work 99 perfect overs out of 100 for the day and a lapse in concentration and focus in the final over can ruin not only your day but that of the players. Players resent the fact you were not “with it” on a vital decision. Strangely, most umpires are forgiven on a mistake at the start and it is quickly forgotten but the opposite happens at the business end of the game.

One pitfall that brings a lot of umpires undone is a relaxation together with the rhythm of a smooth game and he loses the edge that is necessary in a tight situation. A good golden rule to apply is to always use a smooth match as a reason to step up your concentration and focus thus eliminating the possibility of being caught by surprise in a tough situation.

Another (and possibly the most common) reason for loss of concentration and focus starts with a small scale lapse with far reaching consequences. For instance, your mind wanders for a moment causing you to be out of position for a run out. It’s a direct hit and the fielders are adamant it was out. You say not out and you may have got the call right. Reality tells you that you only had a 50/50 chance of being right, as you know you were out of position. This causes you to think too much about your lapse that leads to a loss of focus when the next appeal is made which could be as early as the next ball. The bottom line is not to allow anything that has occurred in the past effect your concentration and focus in the future.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Common Facts About Focus

COMMON FACT NO. 1: As soon as you lose concentration, that’s when something happens that calls for such focus.

This is the usual admonition, challenging you to maintain your focus constantly during a game. You caution yourself that, if you allow your attention to wander for an instant, something will happen to exploit your lapse. The truth is, this type of “happening” occurs throughout most cricket matches. The reason it seems that they happen only at bad times, (when something critical occurs), is because the other occasions are not noticed because nothing happens to call you into action. You have not been called upon to make a decision when you were in fact not ready to make that decision anyway.

COMMON FACT NO. 2: Normal game circumstances lead to abnormal mistakes.

Contrary to our beliefs, there is no magical force out to get you as an official even though it seems like it sometimes. Maintaining your concentration and focus at all times is important because when you lose it, common match circumstances lead to uncommon mistakes. A lapse in focus can cause you to be in poor position for a call or to interpret a Law incorrectly. Becoming uncomfortable and flustered when dealing with tension and pressure can also lead to a lapse in focus. Concentration and focus is foundational in that when it is lacking, the other skills an aspects of your umpiring will break down.

COMMON FACT NO. 3: The focus ability of the better umpires is at a different level.

The ability to put all other matters aside and focus entirely on the job at hand is what separates the elite umpires from the rest. These umpires are never in the wrong place, never surprised when the unexpected happens and never unprepared to deal with any situation that may arise even in the most tense of situations. Every game is different but the principles remain the same and flexibility in applying Laws and techniques is the key.

Because the last game involving the same teams was difficult and tense does not mean the next one will be the same. Umpires who go into a game with a preconceived set of ideas are not focused. Keep in the here and now.

COMMON FACT NO. 4: Focus must exist before the start or restart.

For the correct concentration and focus to be maintained throughout a match, it must exist prior to the commencement of the match. If you miss a call or get a decision wrong, players will assume you were not concentrating at that time. This perception by the players is often based on the fact they are told to focus on their particular part of the game. Quite often this conclusion is incorrect but you will be judged more harshly if they feel you had a lapse in concentration than for an error in judgment. Make sure you are prepared and focused from the time you walk onto the field, as it will be your best weapon to get through the day unscathed.

Sunday 13 December 2015


FOCUS: “To concentrate attention or effort”

What is proper mindset of an umpire? Is it staring straight at an unobstructed view of play, ready and willing to make a decision as everything slows down and fractions of a second seem like full minutes? Now this umpire IS focused. Too bad you are watching on television and it’s only your dream and ambition to be out there making the split second decision that turns a Test Match.

What about the fact that the bowler “lives on the line”, it is 35 degrees, the pitch is up and down and it is session 3, day 5 of the deciding match in a 5 test series. What really happened before you saw the 5th replay from every conceivable angle?

This is the life of not only the International Umpire, but also every umpire officiating in any match on any given day of the year. Umpires jobs are hard enough given the multitude of Laws and Playing Conditions to remember, extensive techniques to perfect, diversity of personalities with which to interact and the challenge of the judgment calls they’re faced with every time they walk onto the field. Combine all these factors with the pressure of a game situation and even the most focused officials face a difficult task.

Regardless of how good you are in a natural sense with your experience and feel for the game, your performance will be diminished if you are not able to maintain your concentration and focus during a game.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Let The Players Play The Game

Use the Laws with commonsense

One of the best things an umpire can do to avoid conflict situations is to let players play the game. Umpires shouldn’t be looking for minor technical violations or any other circumstances just to show people they know the Law book backwards. With the new 2000 Code of Laws now firmly in place, umpires should look to use certain Laws as a deterrent rather than a solution. Always try to solve problems they occur.

Such situations may involve Penalty Runs for breaches like damaging the pitch or time wasting. Your proven techniques for dealing with past instances should not be discarded. Successful man management skills that have averted conflict situations need to be continued with minor adjustments. The powers that have been given to us by the strengthening of the unfair play Laws and awarding of Penalty Runs must be treated with care. The ultimate sanction of awarding Penalty Runs in some situations could be a poor reflection of your competence and capability.

For instance, the case of a batsman running on the pitch may not be considered as unfair play the first time it occurs. You will probably take many things into account and issue the quiet “unofficial” warning also adding a gentle reminder that penalty runs are a consequence of further breaches. Remember, the spirit and intent of this Law is not to penalize an accident or unintentional incident caused by a batsman or bowler changing direction to avoid injury/collision. Any pitch damage must be deliberate to be considered unfair. Ask yourself three questions:

(1) “Why did this particular player commit a particular act?”

(2) “Was it because the player wanted to gain an unfair advantage”

(3) “Did the player really know what he was doing?”

The same can be said of other situations like the wicketkeeper encroaching or a bowler getting in close to protected area of the pitch. Sometimes the nonstriker will be only too keen to point out a couple of footmarks made by the bowler. Let him know you are on top of the situation by saying something like “I’m keeping an eye on it”. A quiet word at the first instance will make the player aware of the possible infringement and alleviate a lot of animosity between players and umpires.

Use common sense when applying the Laws. One of the worst tags an umpire can get is that of being a “Law Book” umpire. Unfortunately, it’s a reputation that will stay with you for a long time.

Be complimentary

Good umpires know how to interact with players and there are many opportunities to do this during the course of the match. If the wicketkeeper removes the bails and then immediately replaces them, say “Thank you”. Your colleague at the bowlers end will indicate if the wicket is correctly aligned or not.

If you have cause to speak to the Captain about player behaviour, always finish your request with “Please”. After he has spoken to the player, always say “Thank you”. Remember, you are not trying to be their buddy, just showing simple courtesy. Whether this courtesy is returned or not is irrelevant and should not affect your future endeavours.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Conflict Situations

The handling of conflict situations requires special personnel management skills. Animosity on the field can arise from two sources – player vs player or player vs umpire.

Player vs player – in this situation it is very often wise to allow the players to have their say so that both know how they feel about each other. By jumping in too quickly here the umpire will only incur the wrath of both players. They will be intent on having their say anyway – but the umpire in control will allow it for a short time only and then step in with words like “You’ve made your feelings clear now let’s get on with the game”.

Some umpires have a dislike for getting involved whilst others may step in too quickly. If either of these paths is chosen, the umpire will quickly lose the respect of the players. A few important matters need to be considered. These include:

Never react too quickly. A disappointed bowler needs a little time to cool down. If the incident occurs during an over, consider waiting until the over is completed before saying anything. An astute Captain will realize his bowlers cannot perform to their optimum if they are rattled and will quite often speak to the player. If this happens, wait to see if it produces the desired effect. If not, you should have a quiet word saying something like “Come on mate, don’t let things get too heated out here”. This is a non-threatening way of defusing a potential problem further into the match. If the bowler shows no interest in improving his behaviour, involve the Captain immediately and request him to take action.

Player vs umpire. Often the fielding team will feel aggrieved over a decision. To show that the umpire is in control and of good temperament, he should stand by his decision and reject any feelings of guilt. You may need to show you are in control by saying, “It’s obvious we disagree on what has happened but the decision has been made so let’s get on with the game”. If an error has been made, umpires must never try to even up as two mistakes over the one incident leads to a loss of respect.

Player Conduct Reports. In the first instance, request the Captain to control his players in accordance with The Spirit of Cricket. Should you need to speak to a player, never walk towards him in an aggressive manner or point fingers in an animated way. Always involve the Captain and your fellow umpire so that all concerned will know what was said. Any reports emanating must be made together with your colleague even if you have not heard what was said. You will know by the reaction of the player that there was a problem and your input into the report will be crucial when a hearing takes place.

Any comment or dissent by a player should be evaluated by you and if in your opinion it was a spur of the moment reaction, or of a minor nature, then you should ignore it or handle it in a low key way. However, if you deem it of a serious nature, or if the player’s behaviour was abusive or intimidatory towards you, then deal with it in accordance with Law 42.18.

Umpires must expect, due to the nature of their decision-making role, (i.e. making decisions that have implications for others), that conflict or dissent will occur at times. Umpires must not be daunted by this. Rather they should have developed strategies to enable them to meet such a challenge in a positive and confident manner.

Never think that being an umpire gives you immunity from having to take a little criticism. It’s part of umpiring so plan on it happening. Successful umpires know how much to take before acting under the code of conduct.