I write this report with the clocks going forward by an hour and everyone tries hard to wonder why the morning has gone by so quickly and by the time everyone has got up, had breakfast and it is lunchtime!! Mothering Sunday and the first day of Spring and the 2019 cricket season is less than three weeks away. Indeed, several of us will have had games prior to the season starting what with club friendlies and university games with the NEPL starting on Saturday the 20th April which in fact is the start of the Easter period. So, what does the new season have in store?
2019 is the 20th year of the League and six of today’s umpires have stood in the League since its inception in 1999. Bill Wake, Alan Clark, John Crockatt, Alan Howe, Eddie Collins and myself are those still standing and the League has seen many umpires come and go mainly those who have gone for age reasons although several have left the area. 27 Umpires were on the panel in the 2000 season and in all 60 umpires have joined and left the panel during this time.
We have taken on 6 new umpires for this season in Phil Mustard, Tony Shields makes a welcome return, Tom Quinn is a young official joining us from Hampshire, Geoff Pollard from the Durham Cricket League and Brian Giles and Ron Blyth join from the Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League
The format is the same as last year and for a change there are 75 vacant umpire days, and all have been offered to the DCL and the NTCL as both are short and it will at least fill in gaps in their appointments.
As usual with the strength of our umpires Ian Warne, Jeff Marshall and Brian Morris are all standing in national panel games and Phil Mustard is being fast tracked to the list due to being an ex-county pro.
However, we still provide umpires to stand in Durham University games, National fixtures, Durham County Ladies and County All age group games plus Durham Under 17 and 19 games so a good mix. Younger umpires have a job getting time off work, but we try and offer these games to them although not very easy and certainly far more difficult than in years gone by.
So, what does this season hold for us umpires. We revert back to two breaks in the Premier Division, one after 2 hours in play and the second after 5 hours and 10 minutes of play. This is what we wanted to stop umpires from standing in long innings and more in line with our County colleagues. This however is only for this season as Martin Pollard who sits on the NEPL LMC is at present undertaking a survey of players taking into their account of what they want to offer better or brighter cricket and it may be that in the Premier Division we revert back to 120 overs but who knows.
Certainly, there is much to wave a flag for different types of cricket in the 2020 season. The season can be split to accommodate league cricket on the present format with an overs game either at the start or at the end on a win/lose match plus a shorter game for Division 3 players which hope for an earlier finish. Early days but a change is on the way.
At out very well attended pre-season meeting of umpires Harry Stephenson the leagues newly elected Disciplinary Secretary urged umpires to keep up the strict rules of discipline within the league but still some umpires turn a blind eye to events and do little about these occurrences and this only passes the problem down the line to the next umpires and the next match. Whilst we do not have a big problem with discipline compared to other leagues a careful eye needs to be shown.
As usual ECB have still not completely solved the Law on beamers. This time they try to differentiate between types of and pass the choice to umpires to determine whether accidental or intended instead of making this easier the wording pins the choice solely with the umpire. The obvious thing that will come out is that different umpires will have differing views on or when to call. Hopefully all will be sorted. A faint hope.
Perhaps one significant thing that we are trying this season is offering a mentor service to those umpires who request this. Personally, I believe we should offer this to new umpires coming onto the list with a suitable qualification and we experienced umpires can pass on our knowledge and experience to our new officials. Some very experiences colleagues have also asked if they could be mentored. I remember when I stood in D list games my colleague who was just starting out on the County list would have a mentor and whilst I was never subject to a mentor, I took on board several suggestions which I put to good use. John Hampshire a good friend and colleague of many older umpires in Durham found his help very much appreciated. Information put over by John’s “tell it as I see it” views. One would be foolish to ignore from a test umpire. John is sadly missed in umpiring circles.
The weather has been fine these last few weeks and groundwork is well ahead of schedule. However, the first week in April is back to the cold with frost at night but there is still hope that Spring will eventually reach us so still pack the base layer until at least May.
Could I wish all umpires a warm and trouble-free season and note that there are two of you on the field and best of luck.
NEPL Umpires Appointments Officer