21 August 2006

Cricket Umpiring 1646-2006

A group of players mourn Cricket UmpiringThe cricket world was today mourning the sad demise of umpiring following the self- immolation of Australian umpire Darrell Hair during the fourth test match between England and Pakistan at the Oval. In the early hours of the evening, Mr Hair decided to pour petrol over himself and international cricketing relations before setting light to it in protest over an alleged ball-tampering incident. Whose balls were allegedly tampered with, or why, we shall now never know, though friends of cricket umpiring have suggested that someone had attempted to "grab Pakistan by the googlies". Already the incident is being compared to the notorious "Bodyform" Ashes series, in which England decided to target the brilliant Australian batsman Donald Bradman by bowling sanitary towels at him.

It was in 1646 that the cricket umpire first made his tentative appearance in the world, calling "play" on a limited-overs match between two Kentish sides which sadly had to be abandoned almost immediately when bad light and the English Civil War stopped play. This was just the beginning of a troubled childhood: only two years later the whole game of cricket was banned by the new Puritan parliament, who regarded it as liable to induce ungodly merriment and impious consumption of cucumber sandwiches. Happily the game, and umpiring along with it, returned to favour following the Restoration, when the newly-crowned King Charles II was informed that bowling a maiden over was a highly-prized feat in any cricket match. After this difficult youth, cricket and umpiring soon grew to prominence on the world stage, bringing to the remotest parts of the Empire the deeply-held British values of decency, fair play and utter self-delusion, not to mention official incompetence.

Following its cremation on Sunday, the last remains of cricket umpiring have been laid to rest in a small urn, whose ownership will be contested in a bi-annual contest between England and Pakistan, represented by ex-England captain Mike Gatting and the late Pakistani former umpire Shakoor Rana.