What a legend

Out of here: Taufel will retire at the end of the ICC World Twenty20

An Aussie cricket legend retired today, and in my opinion he deserves all the credit he can get. He was consistently the best in his discipline for a decade. Sure, he got the highest plaudits he could, winning the best in his field five years in a row from the ICC, but no doubt his retirement will go largely unnoticed by the  punters and passed over in the papers.

It’s probably because he is an umpire.

That’s right, Australia’s best, possibly ever, umpire Simon Taufel gave it up today, and for all the right reasons. He announced today that “Following the ICC World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012, I’m moving on from active international umpiring for personal and professional reasons… My wife and children have supported me immensely throughout my career and it is time for me to spend more time with them.”

Fair enough, Simon.

When you consider what Kevin Pietersen’s IPL contract is worth, and put it next to what Taufel was paid to travel all year round, rarely being allowed to umpire in his home country, you know who had to make the bigger sacrifice.

And at 41, his eyes still had plenty left to give. In fact he is being replaced on the elite panel by 52-year-old fellow Australian Bruce Oxenford whose eyes seem to be fine as well. But instead Taufel chose to retire at the top of his game, still well respected by every side he ever officiated.

Umpires can hang on too long, pretending to see what they used to see in Twenty20 (pun very much intended). Steve Bucknor, undoubtedly the coolest (and according to my sister the cutest) umpire ever, was savaged by India for being too old during his prolonged retirement saga. Whether this was true or not was irrelevant. Bucknor’s age, on the other hand, was very relevant. The longer you hold on the more you expose yourself to these kind of criticisms, and the older you get the more people buy into it.

People hate to see someone bow out too late, a shell of their former selves, whether it be an official or a player. Officials, by the very nature of their craft,  also earn double-points on the ire scale from players, administrators and the crowd.

Thus, it is a miracle that an umpire in the days of video review, Hawk-eye, Snicko and Hot-Spot can maintain the level of respect Taufel has managed. He has inspired confidence in his decision making from player and media alike through his somewhat unnerving precision. His unflappable demeanour and ridiculously accurate officiating might lead you to compare him to an umpiring droid, but his reasons for quitting, which in his past interviews he has labelled as the hardest part of being a Test umpire, belie his mushy innards.

A promising cricketer who grew up bowling fast to the likes of Michael Slater and Adam Gilchrist in age-group cricket, his passion for playing had to be replaced with umpiring due to a chronic back issue. Still one of the youngest faces on the umpiring panel, he is by no means the freshest. Ian Gould might fit the mould of an umpire with his flabby jowls and finger waggle ala David Shepherd, but he is still a Greenhorn compared to the experienced youngster Taufel.

His age may have worked in his favour with the players too, as apparently he had the best repartee with them. They trusted him to make the right decision and not to melt under pressure. He never appeared to melt, always looking sharp at the top of the wicket. Tall and dark, with a serious but approachable demeanour, Taufel’s presence always inspired confidence.

He was not a man who created many headlines, the ultimate compliment to a match official. He was never peturbed when mistakes did arise. Just as Glenn McGrath sometimes bowled a wide, and Sachin sometimes gets castled by someone on debut, the best make mistakes. It was how Taufel moved past them and made sure he made as few as possible earned him the respect of everyone in the cricketing community.

With match officials enjoying so much time in the sun, I think it’s only right that people pay the proper respect to the man who spent more time out of the papers than in it and for all the right reasons. He is a guy that could have kept going, earning more respect and plaudits or potentially running the risk of holding on too long. But he has given it away at the top of his game and taken on what is possibly the most thankless task of the lot; training umpires to be just like him.

It might not be so easy, but with this guy in charge, anything’s possible.

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One response to this post.

  1. One of my Best Umpire After david shepherd.. Now Simon Taufel also going to retirement after this series…… Very said…..

    Reply

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