When Pakistan levelled the 2001 two-match series with England by winning the Old Trafford Test, serious mistakes by the umpires Ed Nichols and David Shepherd, were shown to have decided the result. And as Shepherd recounts in his autobiography Shep
, the controversy almost drove him out of cricket. TV replays proved that four crucial England wickets fell to no-balls, and Shep was responsible for missing three of them. One of the most popular and recognisable of the elite band of international cricket umpires was publicly castigated for repeatedly making basic mistakes.
I'd like to block out the memory of that final day forever. I was as attentive and conscientious, at least at the "business" end, as I have ever been. So how did I slip up so badly and so publicly?
It's a question he cannot fully answer, and the truth is that the cameras are now making a compelling case for seriously limiting the power of on-field umpires altogether. It's an appropriate time then to reflect on life as an endangered species. Shep is essentially a sentimental journey back through his Devon childhood, schooldays and his life as a county cricketer, which brought him naturally to officiating when that career ended. There is a nostalgic turn to much of this chronicle, not least, one suspects, because after 20 years of umpiring--having battled to reach the top--the media and technology surrounding the modern game are undermining his achievement.
Some of these tales from the middle belie his public image as the "dancing umpire", the jovial man from the West Country. Shepherd is a sharp-eyed, opinionated observer of the game, and gives his verdict on leading figures--both players and umpires, including the likes of Ian Botham, Darren Gough and Dickie Bird--and what he claims is the encroachment of "evil and greed" within his beloved sport. But Shepherd's tale is sprinkled with genuine humour, and the man who emerges is quirky in the great tradition of cricketing characters. --Alex Hankin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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