The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'Even umpires get nervous'
- Mentally and physically, umpiring in the subcontinent is very demanding: Steve Bucknor

Calcutta: Steve Bucknor hasn't only officiated in four consecutive cricket World Cup finals, but refereed a soccer World Cup qualifier (El Salvador versus Dutch Antilles) as well.

That's not all: The 58-year-old was both an allrounder and soccer goalie in his younger days. In fact, back in 1964, he didn't let Brazil's U-20 side score more than once when he was the Jamaica colts' goaltender.

Well, Bucknor's CV is extraordinary. Come Wednesday and that will look even more luminous as he becomes the first to umpire in 100 Tests ' history, of course, being created in an India-Pakistan face-off.

'I'm just plain happy to have officiated at the highest level for 16 years... There's no other feeling... If I'm thankful to anybody, it's God alone,' Bucknor, who has been accompanied here by wife Leora, told The Telegraph on Sunday afternoon.

His first Test (Jamaica) and ODI (Antigua), in 1988-89, both featured India.

Looking back, Bucknor admitted having made 'many mistakes' and added: 'I won't go into details, but I've twice apologised to the players who got affected... A human being is going to err...'

Approving the many changes in the past decade-and-half, he felt the 'most significant' was the introduction of Match Referees from 1991-92.

'I've got no complaints with the way technology has come in, but Match Referees have been the biggest help. I regard their introduction as the most significant change from the time I stood in my first Test,' Bucknor pointed out.

In contrast to some colleagues, he isn't uneasy about the persistent TV replays. 'Look, it's good to show different angles... However, the commentators should emphasise that the umpire only had the benefit of one angle.'

Asked whether umpiring in the subcontinent was more challenging, Bucknor responded: 'Absolutely... Because of the noise, because of the heat and humidity... Mentally and physically, it's very demanding.'

His preparations involve staying fit ('running, jogging, gym work') and 'readying' for what to expect ' 'good or bad' ' from the teams in question.

'Like the players, even umpires get nervous... It's the degree which varies from individuals... Usually, one begins to start feeling normal with the first ball... By the second over, the nervousness is a thing of the past,' Bucknor said, smiling.

The Jamaican is looked up to by a clutch of emerging umpires, but he himself hasn't had a favourite. 'I've always been comfortable with (David Shepherd) Shep at the other end, that's about it...'

Among cricketers, Bucknor idolised the late Conrad Hunte. For understandable reasons, he has no present-day favourite.

Incidentally, a change by Fifa saved Bucknor the dilemma of having to choose between being an umpire or referee. 'In 1992, the world body lowered the age of its referees from 50 to 45... I didn't have a choice and had to say goodbye to soccer,' he informed.

Bucknor, by the way, continues to follow soccer. Franz Beckenbauer, though, remains his top player. 'On and off the field, the Kaiser has conducted himself admirably ' quite like Hunte,' he signed off, preparing to get into the Test-mode.

The Golden Bails, after all, haven't come just like that.

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