Book reviews

Review by Charles Randall for The Club Cricket Conference

A useful book with tips for occasional umpires has been published for the benefit of the newly launched Club Cricket Charity. The point, emphasised by the author Robbie Book and the former first class umpire David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd in his foreword, is that players think about bowling, batting and fielding, but seldom about umpiring – until they might be required to do the job in a club match.

The Reluctant Umpire by Robbie Book

The Reluctant Umpire by Robbie Book

The title is an apt The Reluctant Umpire, and the sub-title is an even more apt The Opening Batsman In a White Coat. The aim of the 50-page book is to keep team-mate ‘incidents’ to a minimum without too much reference to the Laws.

The thrust of the book is probably informed commonsense for anyone landed with the umpiring job. There are good tips, and the basics are quickly tackled, such as counting to six, the need to give batsmen the benefit of the doubt and the rules of lbw, but there is clearly much more than that if a player does not want to alienate his colleagues by making bad decisions.

Book, a reluctant umpire himself as a seasoned former player at Totteridge Millhillians CC in the Hertfordshire League, takes the players’ point of view. Technicalities are mainly to be side-stepped and kept in perspective. For example, Book suggests that ‘not out’ is almost always the best way to avoid unseemly incidents, especially when decisions are not mainstream, such as handling the ball, hitting the ball twice and obstructing the field.

Running out the non-striker by the bowler before delivery is a dismissal that might cause debate at international level, but should never happen at club level, mainly because Law 38 is now clear that once the bowler enters his delivery stride the non-striker is safe from ‘mankading’ (referring to the India spinner Vinoo Mankad’s action against the Australia batsman Bill Brown in 1947).

Reluctant umpiring needs earthy judgements. Book’s view on mankading: “Although legal, the action is beyond the realms of the Spirit of Cricket – Law 42. In the Sunday cricket version my suggestion is also clear, ‘not out’. The umpire is already looking up at the striking batsman; the bowler is at best provoking an argument and, at worst, cheating. Just tell him to get on with the game and signal dead ball.”

There are a many issues such as runners, stumpings, bouncers, signals to the scorer and even jargon. There are incidents that need interpretation within the Laws. For example, even if a beamer is struck for six, it might still a beamer and, if a bowler bowls two, he must be taken off. But the relative pace of the bowler and ability of the batsman must be taken into account when adjudicating. “Beamers do have to be deemed as dangerous,” says Book.

This professionally produced book combines the job of a serious manual with entertaining observations. The entire cover price of £9.99 will benefit the Club Cricket Charity.

The Reluctant Umpire by Robbie Book

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