Meeting Marais Erasmus
At least four people in Cape Town will be tuning into the India-Bangladesh Test in Chittagong. A father, a wife and twin sons. Marais Erasmus is making his debut as a Test umpire tomorrow. He is chubby, friendly and slightly nervous. “Butterflies are good. I mean you should get them in your tummy, otherwise what’s the point? It is a big match for me,” he said with a laugh.
His father, who thinks his son can do no wrong, is crazy about the game and watched the first Test in Cape Town after the Second World War. Marais' wife and kids watch cricket just to see him umpire. Last month Erasmus officiated in an ODI in Rajkot which had a 5.30am start in Cape Town. “Apparently my sons got up bright and early and saw me walking out to the middle. They shouted out in joy and then went back to sleep!”
Erasmus acknowledges his experience of umpiring in the Duleep Trophy last year helped him prepare for his ODI series in India, but not for the noise levels in the stadiums. “I was, of course, told about it by the other umpires but that noise is something else. I will never forget it and you can’t prepare for something like that.”
Erasmus had more unforgettable incidents from his umpiring life to share. The funniest? “Nantie Hayward was batting in a domestic game and there were probably four or five people in the stands. One of them shouted out: ‘Nantie, if you hit a four now, I will give you 50 rands!’ His voice boomed across the empty stadium. The next ball Nantie swung to the boundary and shouted, ‘Where are those 50 rands?’"
The worst decision? He chooses one from his days umpiring for Under-13s. “He went for a sweep and it went off the toe end of the bat and I gave him plumb lbw. The square-leg umpire told me my mistake and I called the boy back. I am sure there will be many more like that in the future.”
The talk shifted to the pressures of umpiring games involving batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar. “I am aware he is a legend but you have to be truthful to your job and I won’t be letting it affect me. I also like to watch Virender Sehwag bat. He is exciting since you don’t know what he will do. The man I liked watching the most was Shane Warne and I have heard how he used to put pressure on the umpires.”
Just then, Billy Bowden, Erasmus’ umpiring partner, passed us by. Even as Erasmus laughed at the question of how he handled umpiring with a superstar like Billy, Bowden replied: “He [Erasmus] is super, I am a star, together we are the superstars.”
Sriram Veera is a former staff writer at ESPNcricinfo