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Standing tall

Aleem Dar is a rarity: a Pakistani umpire known and respected throughout the world of cricket. He is set to break a few more records over the next few months

Standing tall

Umpiring is one of the toughest tasks in international cricket. Players are never satisfied with the umpire’s decision when they go against them.

The television umpire watches slow-motion replays from different angles and several times, before giving his judgment, but the umpire standing in the ground has to give a verdict from a distance of more than 22 yards and that too immediately after the ball has been delivered.

The ICC’s system of Elite Panel Umpires and Referees came into effect in April 2002. Elite Panel umpires now stand at both ends in all Test matches and there is one member standing with a home umpire for all One-day Internationals.

Pakistani umpires Khizer Hayat, Shakoor Rana, Javed Akhtar, Saleem Badar and Asad Rauf earned a great name in domestic and international umpiring, but the fame and respect earned by Aleem Dar remains unmatched.

Dar was inducted in the Elite Panel of Umpires in 2004. In 2019 he was also included in the panel of umpires who will supervise the Men’s Cricket World Cup starting from May 30 in England. It will be the fifth World Cup in which Dar will serve.

Having stood in 125 World Cup matches, Dar is set to surpass West Indies’ Steve Bucknor, who officiated in 128 such matches.

Dar is behind only South Africa’s Rudi Koertzen (209) and New Zealand’s Billy Bowden (206) in ODI matches count. So he may become the most experienced ODI umpire during the event as he completed 200 ODIs when he stood in the tri-series match between West Indies and Bangladesh last week.

Dar is also about to break the record of supervising most Test matches. With 125 matches, he is just three behind Bucknor. The 50-year-old already has the record of supervising most international matches. He has stood in a total of 368 matches: 125 Tests, 200 ODIs, and 43 T20Is.

Behind him is Koertzen with 331 matches (108 Tests, 209 ODIs and 14 T20Is). Bucknor is third with 309 matches (128 Tests and 181 ODIs).

Dar, who played 17 first-class matches, made his umpiring debut on February 16, 2000, in Pakistan’s ODI against Sri Lanka in Gujranwala.

His first Test was between Bangladesh and England in Dhaka in October 2003.

Interestingly, Dar has never umpired a Test in Pakistan. His appointment in the ICC Panel came after the introduction of neutral umpires in Test matches.

He is one of the most respected umpires in the world for his accurate decisions.

In recognition of his consistent outstanding performances, Dar was declared the Umpire of the Year for three consecutive years: in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He ended Simon Taufel’s run of five successive awards. He was also nominated for the Award in 2005 and 2006, but on both occasions Taufel won the honour.

The government of Pakistan recognised his services by bestowing on him the highest civil award, “Pride of Performance”, in 2011. He also received “Sitara-e-Imtiaz” in 2013.

In early 2017, there was a rumour that Dar was retiring, but at a news conference at Lahore Press Club, he rejected the speculation. He said he had no intention of retiring as the ICC had no issues with his performance. “I have not thought about retiring. As an elite panel umpire I follow the instructions of the ICC.

“The World Cup 2011 was a milestone for me as none of my decisions was reversed even after referrals were taken,” he said. “To me the basic requirement for being a successful and respected umpire is honesty,” he said.

About umpiring standard in Pakistan, in an interview last year, Dar lamented the fact that there were quality umpires coming out of India and Sri Lanka, but Pakistan and Bangladesh were far behind.

He said the biggest setback for Pakistan was that international teams were not visiting. If teams visited Pakistan, new umpires would get a chance, he said.

The most important thing is that there are no umpiring institutions in the country. Our first class cricketers are not coming to this field of the game, he says. He has made some recommendations to the PCB to improve the standard of umpiring in Pakistan, including using television footage in domestic matches as a review tool for the officials.

“I think first of all we need to improve the pay packages for umpires in Pakistan. In England and Australia, pay packages for umpires are so attractive that they don’t even want to come on the ICC elite panel,” he says.

Dar says the PCB should encourage more former Test and seasoned first-class players to come into umpiring. “But that will only happen when umpiring becomes a well paid profession in our country,” he emphasises.

Dar is also running two cricket academies in Lahore, one in Bahria Town and the other in Jauhar Town. He wants to set up a specialised academy for umpiring in Pakistan after his retirement.

 

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NOTE: All statistics updated till May 7, 2019

Khurram Mahmood

Khurram Mahmood 2019

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