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DICKY BIRD: THE REVERED UMPIRE 22 Oct., 1992 The ExpressBY: Abdulrazak Sheriff Fazal
Englandís Harold Dennis Bird has become cricketís first sponsored independent umpire in the on going Zimbabweís inaugural test match against India in Harare. He is sponsored by Britainís National Grid Company. Bird has also equaled Frank. Bird has also equaled Frank Chesterís record of umpiring in 48 test matches and will break the record when he umpires Zimbabweís two more test matches against New Zeland in November, also to be sponsored by National Grid.
Birdís achievement had received the recognition of Her Majesty who honoured him with MBE, the honour he cherishes to the extent of signing all his letters ĎDicky Bird MBE test Umpireí. Undoubtedly in the cricket world he is the most revered umpire. When it comes to making borderline decisions Dicky has been getting them right more often than others.
It is not that he makes no mistakes. Umpires are human beings and not infallible. In Pakistanís decisive World Cup semifinal at Lahore in 1987 he ruled Imran Khan Ďoutí when the Pakistan skipper had not sneaked the ball. Even then during the recent Pakistan- England series in England Imran paid him the most handsome tribute.
"Why is it that umpire Dicky Bird during his entire career has never had an ugly incident? He is a great umpire not that he does not make mistakes but because of his integrity and wonderful nature. Umpires should take a leaf out of Birdís book and learn to command respect rather than demand it".
Birdís greatest quality is that he is efficient without being officious. He has both the confidence and the ability to laugh at himself and with other players. Only last week we had narrated a couple of incidents relating to Bird falling victim to Ian Botham and Allen Lambís japes. Perhaps it is Birdís admirable quality that makes players acquaint closely with him.
Bird is a man who seems to attract misfortune. He had played cricket for Yorkshire and Leicestershire. Once after scoring his highest score of 181 against Glamorgan, Yorkshire dropped him in their next match.
He umpired his first first-class match in 1970 at the Oval and reached the ground at 6.30 in the morning to find the gates locked and barred. Bird then attempted to scale the wall round the ground and coincidentally there arrived a policeman. Imagine Bird, one leg astride the Oval wall and being examined by a doubting policeman.
Birdís life has been full of incidents. Even the Persian Gulf city of Sharjah where he had gone to officiate in a cricket tournament received him with its first serious rainstorm. The Sharjah desert heat did not lag behind and had poor Bird collapse on the ground. He had to be taken back to the pavilion on a stretcher.
After West Indies had won the World Cup in 1975 at Lords spectators invaded the pitch and Bird who was umpiring the game lost his hat which was snatched by a spectator. On the following day when Bird was traveling by a bus he happened to sit beside a West Indian passenger wearing the same hat that he had lost the previous day. When Bird enquired of the hat the passenger replied "Man, I snatched it from the umpire at Lords yesterday". What a coincident and how humorous!
There have been other funny incidents too in Birdís life. Once while umpiring a game the batsman hit the ball very high and from his position at the bowlerís end Bird ran towards the boundary following the flight of the ball. There he was on the boundary edge ready to catch the ball when he suddenly realized that he was not playing but umpiring. He felt really embarrassed and started signaling six as the ball had gone over the boundary.
During a test match at Old Trafford between England and West Indies he urgently wanted to go to the toilet and so stopped the match saying to the players, "Iím very sorry, gentlemen, but nature calls". He then ran off to the toilet to the amusement of the players and a tremendous roar from the crowd.
Birdís worst cricket day was at Lords in 1973 in a test match between West Indies and England when there was a bomb scare. All spectators had to leave the ground. Bird sat on the covers thinking it was the safest place and also feeling very sad. The game resumed later in the day and his favourite Gary Sobers went on to record his 26th and last test century.
Bird does not enjoy coming off for bad light. He favours playing on in all light, believing that it usually rains if the light is really poor. He also deplores mass appealing and premature celebrations of a wicket before an umpire has even made his decision.
Almost 60 years of age Bird now puts on spectacles. A humble man with honesty and kindness as his motto he likes to help the sick and elderly, and pay a regular visit to the church.
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