April 19, 2006

'Slow death' Koertzen achieves landmark in inaugural Abu Dhabi ODI

Tuesday's match between India and Pakistan in Abu Dhabi marked a significant moment in the career of Emirates Elite Panel umpire Rudi Koertzen as it was his 150th one-day international.

By standing in the game, the 57 year-old has become only the second umpire in history to officiate in that number of ODIs, joining the now-retired David Shepherd in that very select club.

Koertzen made his international debut on 9 December 1992 in a match between South Africa and India in Port Elizabeth and since then has gone on to become one of the game's most respected officials, also standing in 73 Tests.

A member of the Emirates Elite Panel of umpires since 2002, he stood in the 1999 and 2003 ICC Cricket World Cups (including the Australia - Sri Lanka semi-final in Port Elizabeth at the latter tournament, which was his 100th ODI).

Koertzen also stood in the 2002 and 2004 ICC Champions Trophies, the World Cricket Tsunami Appeal match in Melbourne in January 2005 and the Johnnie Walker Super Series Test match between Australia and the ICC World XI in Sydney in October 2005.

Commenting on the milestone, ICC Umpires and Referees Manager Doug Cowie said: "Rudi's achievement is a tribute to his skill and consistency as one of our most solid and dependable umpires - he is rock solid.

"He has proved himself to be unyielding, resilient, dependable, loyal and dedicated, all qualities that are needed to make it to the top of his profession and he has been an outstanding performer for many years now.

"Rudi is a top professional and is great to umpire with because he never gets upset or rattled, has a good rapport with the players and just gets on with his job."

Rudi Koertzen said: "When I started umpiring in 1981 I did it just to be involved with the game that I love and I never dreamt I would reach this stage.

"South Africa's return to international cricket gave me a chance to progress but even then I thought that standing in 50 ODIs would be an achievement.

"But I am a great one for setting myself goals and now I have reached this mark I am looking to see if I can umpire 100 Tests and 200 ODIs - that would be special."

Almost every umpire has a trait that makes him unique and Koertzen's is his slow and deliberate way of giving batsmen out.

"When I started, I had a different stance with my hands in front of my body but it meant that every time I moved them after a delivery, batsmen got jumpy because they thought I was going to give them out," he said.

"I decided to put my hands behind my back and I now grip my left wrist with my right hand, something that stops me just shooting my left hand up without thinking about each decision.

"Some people call me `slow death' and I guess that has become my trademark," he added.

Koertzen is yet to stand in an ICC Cricket World Cup final and that remains a burning ambition.

"I was third umpire in 2003 and I probably have one more chance to get there (in the West Indies in 2007) so I'll be working very hard for what would be the ultimate achievement in my career," he said.

And his advice for aspiring officials? "You mustn't rush through the system as experience is priceless," he said.

"Keep fit, know the Laws of Cricket and if you do things right then you will earn the respect of the players. Once you have that then the job becomes 100 per cent easier," he added.

Most ODIs appearances by umpires (correct to close of play on 18 April):

David Shepherd - 172
Rudi Koertzen - 150
Steve Bucknor - 138
Darrell Hair - 120
Daryl Harper - 113
David Orchard - 107
Steve Dunne - 100