Kuwaiti umpires need exposure

Cricket in Kuwait seems to be very well organized. Playing conditions in this country gives the umpires a lot of strength and there are punishments to the teams which arrive late for the match. One thing that stood out mostly was the fact that the players are well behaved on the fields and do not intimidate the umpires too much. This enable the umpires to perform their duties without too much interference.

Sri Lankan Test umpire Peter Manuel conducted a 10-day umpiring course in Kuwait from Jan. 21 to 30. Manuel witnessed negative factor during his stay in Kuwait that there was lack of some of the umpires to get involved in situations that develop on the field. They would rather ignore it rather than get involved. “This only reflects on some of the umpires,” Manuel says in his report.

Another negative factor was the inability of some umpires to quite understand their local playing conditions and act accordingly. If two umpires are officiating a match, they would rather leave it to their partner to interpret the playing conditions then actually get involved.

“They must go to other non-Test playing Asian countries and display their skills,” Manuel says.

“They must be given the opportunity otherwise they are like frogs in a well only knowing what is happening in their own country.”

The experienced Sri Lankan umpire believes that by supervising matches outside Kuwait these umpires could improve. “Their progress must be monitored and the results of their excursions must be made known to them if they are to get better.”

Manuel feels that the best umpires in Kuwait must be given an opportunity to get into an ‘Asian International panel’ which could comprise best of the non-Test playing countries and they must be given an opportunity to supervise first class matches in the four Asian Test playing countries.

“Why must an umpire have to wait till his cricketers gain Test status to become an international umpire?” Manuel questions. “If an individual is good and can stand with the best he must have the opportunity to make it to the top.”

Instructors, according to Manuel, should monitor performances of these umpires in international tournaments whether it’s under-15 or under-19 events.

“If Development Officers could be match referees to monitor the progress of the players, why can’t instructors act in the same capacity for the good of the umpires,” Manuel argues. The Sri Lankan umpire volunteers his services – free of charge (on non-profit base as instructor) – for the benefit of umpires. “My greatest profit would be to see some of my charges make it to the top,” Manuel says.

Manuel suggests that Asian Cricket Council should coordinate with the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) for the development of umpiresfrom non-Test playing countries.

Manuel gives umpiring recipes to Malaysians
Taken from the Newsletter of the ACC Development Programme, February 2003

Sri Lankan Test umpire Peter Manuel visited Malaysia and conducted a five-day course from January 8 to 12. The basic purpose of this course was to enhance the knowledge of Malaysian umpires.

Manuel stressed on the importance that umpires should be well versed in the laws of the game. “We were also fortunate to have Chief Executive Office, ACC Mr. Ashraful Huq during the course,” Manuel says in his report.

On the special request of Malaysian Cricket Association, Manuel also explained the complicated Duckworth/Lewis (D/L) Method to the 15 participants of the course.

“Most of the younger umpires managed to get a hang of how the D/L system worked though I felt that some of the older ones struggled to understand the concept,” Manuel says.

On day four, the MCA hosted a dinner which was also attended by Ashraful Huq. Manuel reiterated the necessity for the ACC to form its own international panel of umpires who conduct matches between the non-Test playing countries in Asia.

After the conclusion of the course, Manuel emphasised the need for the umpires to keep reading the laws and understanding its interpretation, “which is the only recipe for good umpiring.”

Manuel said that the handling of the course was excellent. “The (Malaysia) umpires are all experienced except for may be one or two.”

Before the course started, Manuel’s attention was drawn to the fact that more that 60 per cent of the participants were over the age of 50 years.

“The necessity to attract younger individuals to the umpiring fraternity is compulsory if the standard is going to be maintained in Malaysia,” he said.

For this purpose, Manuel suggested that MCA must try to attract former cricketers to join the fold and keep their fraternity going. During the course, Manuel observed that some of the older umpires were not very responsive as they were only doing it with no real ambition to move up. “This does not create a healthy atmosphere for the young umpires.”

One positive aspect of this region, which Manuel found out, was that the standard of English was excellent so there was no problem with communication. “They just need to apply the (cricketing) laws correctly and consistently,” he said.

Manuel said that the grounds in Malaysia are excellent with some very good turf pitches, “so the infrastructure is terrific for good umpires.”

Umpires’ skill development programme in Singapore
Taken from the Newsletter of the ACC Development Programme, February 2003

Pakistan’s former Test umpire Mahboob Shah, the Asian Cricket Council’s Resource Person, conducted a skill development programme for umpires in Singapore from January 21 to January 28, 2003 at the Ceylonese Cricket Club auditorium in Singapore.

Around 25 umpires from Singapore attended the programme with enthusiasm and attentiveness, Mahboob Shah writes in his report. “They were interactive and keen to enhance their knowledge and umpiring skills,” says the ACC Resource Person.

The participants attended daily sessions of four hours each in which lectures were delivered. Main features of the daily schedule were short objective tests after each session, practical field work on the cricket field and quiz competition, which marked the conclusion of the programme prior to the written examination. “The participants showed great interest in these exercises as they found them very useful,” Mahboob Shah wrote in his report.

Videos were shown depicting technique of cricket umpiring and laws of cricket. Some decisions in international matches were also screened for the benefit of the participants at the conclusion of the programme which recapitulated earlier proceedings and refreshing their memories before the examination.

The three-hour written examination given to the participants was followed by an oral test.

On the basis of this examination, interaction of the participants and keeping in view the 19 short objective tests they took following each session, gradation of umpires was done.

However, those failing to attain less than 80 per cent attendance were not allowed by the Singapore authorities to sit the examination.

Anil Kalaver assisted Mahboob Shah during the course while Sarika Siva Prasad, one of Singapore’s most knowledgeable umpires, was the co-ordinator.

McAuliffe inspects pitches in Singapore
Taken from the Newsletter of the ACC Development Programme, February 2003

Keith McAuliffe of the NZ Sports Turf Institute visited Singapore with the purpose to inspect a couple of cricket fields and their pitches. McAuliffe did a thorough technical examination of the outfield and the pitches at the Kallang Cricket Ground and the Singapore Indian Cricket Ground and gave a detailed account of his findings and recommendations in his comprehensive report.

KALLANG CRICKET GROUND RECOMMENDATIONS
Wicket’s Layering
In some parts of the wickets there appears to be a layer at approximately 40-50mm depth. Samples were taken from the individual strips for inspection, whereby a sand layer was observed. As the layer is not over the entire wicket and the layer depth appears to be variable, it could be quite troublesome to remove easily.
Layers in wickets are normally created by incorrect rolling technique. However, some layers – at the Kallang Ground – are caused during construction where contamination has occurred.

The options available for the Kallang cricket wicket block are as follows:

  • Leave the block in tact and pay important matches on the strips that are known to perform better.
  • Excavate the wickets down to a level just above the sand layer, remove the contaminated layer of sand and clay and dispose of this material, re-grade surface contours on the base, apply basal fertilisers, process the initial clay removed from the wicket (remove plant material and process the clay to a small aggregate, reapply the clay to the wicket to reach the desired levels).

The wicket will then require restolonising with Bermuda stolons and growing in.

Wicket moisture levels
The wicket is currently very wet. Under no circumstances should the wicket receive any pre-season rolling under the current condition. With rainfall virtually every day, covers should be used to help dry the wicket.

Once the wicket moisture levels improve to a more manageable level, soil moisture levels can be monitored.

Cricket wickets should be rolled when clay is in a moist condition at depth (not wet, but pliable) and relatively dry on the surface. When wickets are rolled at the incorrect moisture content the wicket can be damaged as layers are formed. This will have a negative effect on the performance of the wicket as the ball bounce will be reduced.

Turf Coverage
The coverage of Bermuda grass Tifway 419 is very good. The wicket requires cutting on a more frequent basis. Cutting the Bermuda grass will encourage stolon growth. Excessive stolon growth can be controlled through the frequent use of verti-cutting and hand raking. Cutting the wicket with a reel (cylinder) mower at a height of approximately 12-15mm is recommended.

The Kallang ground was sand silt on 1997-1998. Sand slitting generally requires the ground to be regularly sand top-dressed to ensure the surface is always kept free draining and to provide the slits with a sand to sand interface to drain the water away. Unfortunately, the Kallang outfield is badly infested with earthworms. Earthworms effectively bring clay and slit to the surface of the field and deposit this material in the form of castings on top of the sand. When this occurs the sand slit drainage system effectiveness is greatly reduced.

The outfield had been top-dressed with sand a day or so before the visit. Earthworm casting was evident on top of the sand top-dressing during the visit. Basically, these casts are then broken down by rainfall or smeared by machines over the sand thereby sealing the sand and reducing infiltration rates of water.

During the visit sand slit lines were still evident in the outfield, indicating that water movement was still faster through these areas as the lines dry out faster than the rest of the field. A sand slit was dug up to inspect the quality (cleanliness) of the sand. The sand slit has become choked up with soil as a result of earthworm activity.

There two options available to the Singapore Cricket Association to remedy the drainage issues at the Kallang ground – dilution of outfield with clean sand or install more drains.

Earthworm control
Earthworms can destroy sand carpet systems very quickly with their surface castings and subsoil tunneling. It is important that the outfield is sprayed with an insecticide as often as required (when castings are observed on the surface).

Outfield levels
Some areas of the outfield are generally quite bumpy near the tree-lined boundary. Undertaking some intensive root pruning near the boundary is suggested.

Root pruning should take place near the ‘drip line’ of the trees. Root pruning can be undertaken using a trenching machine such as a Ditch Witch.

Sand top-dressing issues
As there has been some very wet weather in Singapore of late, the sand top-dressing applications are often hindered by rain. When this occurs, the sand on the surface becomes wet and cannot be brushed into the turf mat. As a result the sand is left in clumps on the surface. The turf can then be killed (buried under the sand) or the turf will grow through the clumps, locking the sand in place and creating an uneven surface.

SINGAPOREAN INDIAN CRICKET CROUND

Wicket block condition and recommendation
Cleavage planes in the wicket block
The club has three Darwin wickets and one artificial wicket on the block. Three 100mm soil samples were extracted from each of the three strips. The samples were studied to assess the depth of the Darwin soil and the presence of any horizontal fracture planes.

Of the three wickets sampled, the outside strip appeared to be worst in terms of layering. The layers in this strip will almost certainly be affecting the performance of the wicket.

The strips appear to have a layer at approximately 20mm and another deeper in the root zone at approximately 50-60mm. The deeper layer does not appear to be over the entire wicket and was probably caused during the construction of the wicket. The deeper layer is not the problem layer.

We recommend intensively renovating the wickets at the end of the coming season.

The renovation will include scarifying the surface until the machine blades are cutting through the layer zone. Deeper treatment, such as hand forking may also be necessary. The wicket would then be top dressed with fresh clay to build up the top 20-25mm again. The important part of this renovation is to break through the layer zone and ‘key’ the fresh soil into the zone below.

Bermuda grass quality
The Bermuda grass was in great condition at the time of the visit and will only require mowing lower with a reel mower and some vertical cutting to reduce surface coarseness leading up to the start of the season.

Weed control in the wicket block
The block is currently being invaded by cow-grass along the edges of the block. Hand weeding these areas as soon as possible and keeping the wicket ‘edged’ to keep the competing cow-grass controlled is recommended.

Moisture content in wicket block
Like the Kallang ground, this wicket block was extremely wet throughout the soil profile and the same procedure to counter the problems are recommended.

Artificial wicket
The artificial wicket is in poor condition at the moment. The strip requires water blasting to remove mould and mildew. It should also have the edges cut to remove the encroaching Bermuda grass, and the popping crease requires re painting.

Outfield recommendations
Top-dressing
The outfield does not have any drainage (except a slight fall to help remove surface water). The root zone is soil and is relatively free draining according to Club members. The Club still uses processed soil to top-dress the surface to aid surface smoothness.
Top dressing of the outfield had taken place a few days before the visit. Many large rocks were present of the surface.

Outfield weed control
There are a number of weeds present in the outfield at the Singapore Indian Cricket Ground. Unfortunately, as the ground does not have any drainage, it cannot be mown as frequently or as low as other grounds. Therefore, weeds such as lover-grass, sedges and nut-grass are well established.

Use of the herbicide recommendations for the Kallang Ground will provide the outfield at the Singapore Indian Ground with a weed-free surface.

“We recommend the Singapore Cricket Association looks seriously at purchasing a boom sprayer unit that can be transported between venues for the application of pesticides and fertiliser. This turf equipment is vital to maintain high standard cricket venues,” McAuliffe says in his concluded remarks.

Umpiring course in Thailand
Taken from the Newsletter of the ACC Development Programme, February 2003

Although roots of cricket in Thailand are quite old, yet the unique feature of the game here is that it has not been able to gain popular appeal amongst locals.

These were the observations of Pakistan’s former Test umpire Mahboob Shah, who conducted an umpires’ training programme in Bankok from December 12 to 21, 2002.

Mahboob Shah also noticed that there was no local, who took part in the 10-day course and all the participants were immigrants.

“But their enthusiasm was remarkable,” says Mahboob in his report.

“Despite severe occupational time constraints, they amply showed great keeness to learn,” he said.

Attendance at the course was encouraging and 10 to 12 participants attended the course on regular basis.

Kulbir Singh Bhatia, one of the participants was more than satisfied after the course. “This is the first time we really learnt about real cricket laws, but the time was not enough as we wanted to learn more through videos and practical. We hope we get more time in future.”

Prakash Malani, another participant, said that umpires in Thailand would learn a lot if such courses are organised more frequently. He suggested that more umpires from other developing Asian countries should be invited in future.

“New rules and regulations (in cricket) should be sent to us so that it could be distributed to schools and local clubs,” he said.