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The rising star of umpiring

Kevin Howells | 12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ian Gould is one of our rising stars. England wicketkeeper in the 1983 World Cup and close on 300 first-class games as a player, he's now taking on the world as an umpire.

He enjoyed a wonderful World Cup this year and is about to set off on another tour of the globe during the summer on the ICC Elite panel.

I've always found him one of the most engaging and terrific of men. Always chirping away on the stump microphones - always involved and always seemingly enjoying himself.

The really big one for him at the World Cup was the semi-final between India and Pakistan. He admits to having been quite nervous ahead of the huge day in Mohali. 

He took some advice off his Australian colleague Simon Taufel. "Basically he told me to throw every newspaper away, don't watch the television and just get on with it," Gould told me. "The game itself flew past. I had quite a good tournament so I felt pretty confident." 

Now, I was talking to Ian the day after the Royal Wedding, some weeks after the game. But it was only then the size of the event in India had sunk in.

He explained: "Somebody told me there were two billion people watching the wedding on TV whilst the semi-final had 2.8 billion watching. That actually made me feel more nervous about it just over a month after the event."

I was interested to hear Ian talk about the five minutes before play begins. Nowadays there is the big build-up on the field with national anthems and the like, and he says that in Mohali it was a tense time.

Ian Gould umpiring in the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan

Umpire Ian Gould signals a decision reversal after giving India's Sachin Tedulkar out LBW during this year's World Cup semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali

He said: "The most intimidating period was when we were lining up. I had a look around the ground and saw how many people were there and how passionate they are. You're not thinking about cricket then, your mind is on home and family and not wanting to let them down. Once you turn away from the anthems and get into the game, that's it, you're in." 

Ian, of course, has done it all in the game. International player, county player at Middlesex and Sussex, a coach and now umpire, not forgetting his football as well. 

But how does his current job rate?

"I enjoyed playing and had great fun then as a young man - also coaching to a point. It was something I got drawn into, and enjoyed working with [Andrew] Strauss and [Owais] Shah, but it really wasn't me.

"You were reliant on other people and I like to rely on myself and my family. I'm a big family man and we tend to rely on one another and not worry about what other people are thinking and doing."

As for his 'pro-active' approach as an umpire, it's all part of his way of going about the job.

"I always wanted to umpire as I wanted to be umpired when I was a player. I don't want to be officious or be seen as a school master, but I do have another side to me as one or two people have found out. 

"If I can deal with it on the field then you don't have much book work to deal with after the game. To be honest, at the moment I think international cricket is at its highest of behaviour, with outstanding individuals.  

"For me to 'book' a player, there has to be something dramatic. If I can't deal with it on the field you will have had to be bang out of order or I've been bang out of order. Experience tells you what's coming next. Decision making is massive but to gain the respect of a player towards you is important, it's player management which is the major thing in umpiring."  

As a spectator I've always wondered what umpires talk about with the players all day long at square leg. Could it be coaching and asking for tips? Ian says sometimes 'yes'.

"They ask but I don't try and do too much of it as I was found out, I wasn't particularly a good coach and I don't want to ruin their careers.

"Playing and umpiring is much the same. Either you are in good nick or not. Basically it's about cutting down the chances of  making major mistakes. I am trying to concentrate hard enough to make sure I don't make crazy mistakes. 

"I have the concentration span of a gnat. When I stand at the bowler's end I have to walk away and think of other things and wait for the bowler to start running in again before I can fully focus because overloading this brain is not a great thing to do."

Yeah, right. Honest maybe, but only to a point. He's better than that.

Around the circuit you hear stories of umpires making mistakes, and then at a later point saying sorry to the player involved. Ian is not a supporter of that kind of confession.

"I would be disappointed if I walked up to a player and said 'sorry, I think I made a mistake'," he said.

"You don't mean to make mistakes but that is human. Players will have their opinions and I'll have mine. To talk about it later and perhaps say sorry is a sign of weakness."

Now, with such a schedule of globe trotting to come why on earth is Ian spending so much time doing county games? Does he not want a break and a bit of time to himself?

His answer is 'no', and it's because he feels he needs to say thank you to those who helped him out at the ECB.

"They gave me everything," he added. "They took me on when I was finished at Middlesex and Mr Collier (David Collier, CEO) and Chris Kelly (the umpire manager) have been outstanding to me. This keeps me fit in mind and body."

To Ian, the idea of taking a couple of months off and going straight into an international game would be lunacy and wouldn't be good preparation. So given a chance he keeps his eye in on the domestic scene and loves it.

Of course, the Umpire Decision Review System doesn't exist in the county game but Ian is a fan.

"I find it's an amazing tool but if we have it, everything needs to be made available to us," he said. "It gives not only the umpire but the player the opportunity to see that decisions taken might be pretty good."  

Ian is about to depart for international duties. First up is Ireland v Pakistan at the end of the month and then the West Indies v India. County cricket's loss is the gain of the international game.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good article and interesting insight from Ian Gould on the umpires role in particular the people skills needed.

    Not enough ex-players (at club level) give back to the game. They take for granted the officials who facilitated their cricketing careers. As many other domestic sports there is now a shortage of officials.

    Good and reliable umpires and scorers are like gold dust without them we don't have a game at junior or international level. We are now educating kids in this area so they understand cricket a little bit more than just as a player!

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank Kevin, Good blog as usual. I tried taking an Umpiring course last season but unfortunately the course dates ended up being on a pre-booked holiday so never took part. I really should of tried again for this season but I guess the moment passed for me.

    That said I do have a copy of Tom Smith's now residing on my coffee table and is always what I reach for if I don't quite understand the decision given or disagree with it. Always watch games with a partial Umpiring hat on now and it makes the game more interesting for those appeals or when something odd happens. Although I can be a tad bit biased towards the team I'm supporting...

    With that in mind I'd love to see your write a blog on my beloved Somerset mainly because it'll be nice to see someone's objective (ie not one of the faithful) about what we've got right since 2006 and being bottom of division 2. I can go on about it for hours but I find other people opinions more interesting than my own.

  • Comment number 3.

    It would have been nice to hear his opinions about the use of technology in decision making. As with football, the issue isn't going to go away. It's use will increase, and how this is managed could have an important bearing on the continued success of Cricket.

  • Comment number 4.

    As usual frank, honest no-nonsense comment but he has a great sense of humour which with hard work explains why he our top umpire.


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