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August 22, 2006
The Indian board's efforts to encourage former international cricketers to take up umpiring hasn't got off to the desired start, with only one such appearing for the umpiring examination for the Ranji Trophy panel.
Atul Bedade, the former Indian batsman who played 13 ODIs in the mid 1990s, was the lone former international to feature among 35 former cricketers who took the examination compared to 134 candidates in the non-cricketers' category.
Faced with criticism from the ICC about the quality of umpiring in India, the BCCI took extra initiative this time, appointing a three-member panel to improve the umpiring standards and ensure representation of Indians in the ICC's Elite Panel. In order to include more former cricketers, the board introduced two categories - cricketers and non-cricketers, but admitted that the response was disappointing.
"The board is disappointed over the response," Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's executive secretary, told The Indian Express. "We wanted to attract more international players with our initiative. We may not have any big names here, but who knows, we may have a brilliant umpire in the list."
Besides S Venkataraghavan, the former Indian offspinner, no other Indian umpire has figured in the Elite Panel. Maninder Singh and Yashpal Sharma, former Test players, showed interest in taking up the profession but quit after falling out with the system. Maninder later told Cricinfo Magazine, "Umpires shouldn't be left at the mercy of board officials who don't know anything about umpiring."
The BCCI is taking assistance from Microsoft to provide software solutions to assess the umpires in the forthcoming domestic season, which could in turn fast-track young umpires to the big league.
However, SK Bansal, who has umpired in six Tests and 30 one-dayers, warned that it is easy to get carried away. "Every player thinks within a year he will be put straight into the ICC Elite Panel," he said. "It's not done like that. Fast-tracking doesn't mean next year you will officiate a Test match. There might be a grudge over this issue. But this time the board is very sincere, and that's what matters."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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