'IPL has improved standard of Indian umpires' - Ravi
A day after becoming only the second Indian umpire to be included in the ICC's elite panel since its inception in 2002, S Ravi believes the "perception" of Indian umpires will now change. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo from his hometown Chennai, Ravi said his elevation would convince the cricketing world that "Indian umpires are capable enough to officiate in Test matches and ODIs and get on to the elite panel."
"I was working hard for this," Ravi said. "I was expecting it because I was on the emerging panel of ICC and after having a good World Cup I thought I should be there and I got the nod from the selectors."
Last month, Ravi, 49, umpired in England for the first time in his six-Test international career, officiating in both games of New Zealand's tour. He described the experience as "challenging" but rewarding.
"It was a great experience," he said. "The conditions were very challenging for me. When you go to England, you have to expect tough weather conditions, the ball seams and swings throughout the game, it is a tough ask for us. I was prepared for that and I thought I did reasonably well."
On the third day of the second Test in Leeds, Ravi gave an official warning to England's leading bowler James Anderson for running onto the pitch in New Zealand's second innings. ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary noted at the time that "Anderson isn't impressed. Fuming is probably the correct term," but Ravi said he had "no issues" with players from either side.
"I am just implementing the laws of the game, that's all," he said. "Whether it is X player or Y player, the law is the same. I am there to conduct the match within the framework of the laws. That's it, very simple."
Ravi is among four Indian umpires- Vineet Kulkarni, C Shamshuddin and Anil Chaudhary being the other three - who are serving on the ICC's international panel of umpires, the level immediately below the elite panel. He is now convinced that more people can make the grade up, and credits the experience of officiating in the IPL over the last few years as the reason for improved umpiring standards.
"In the last five-six years, the standard of Indian umpires has gone up because of our umpires standing in the IPL, which is an international standard tournament," he said. "They get to work with elite umpires and referees from different countries. They get to interact with international players, coaches, support staff and other stakeholders. All these things have made Indian umpires better. I am sure in the near future at least one or two more will make it to the elite panel.
"A couple of them (Indian umpires) are now nominated for the World T20 qualifiers in Scotland and Ireland next month. That's a big tournament for them. If they do well, they can get on to the emerging panel and move up the ladder."
Ravi has also officiated in 12 T20Is and 24 ODIs since 2011, including three matches in the recently-concluded World Cup. The experience gained from these high-profile assignments has made him realise that intense scrutiny comes with the territory.
"As umpires, who are umpiring at the highest level of the game, we are bound to be scrutinised by the media, the players, and the captains." he said. "We should be prepared for that. If you make an error, it will be highlighted, technology will expose you at some stage or the other. You should be prepared for that, learn from that error and move on. You can't do much about it."
Ravi credits former Australian umpire Simon Taufel, who has worked with him as an advisor and mentor to the BCCI's elite panel of umpires, for his rise. According to Ravi, Taufel, who was the ICC umpire of the year for five consecutive years from 2004 to 2008, has helped him understand the mindset needed to succeed in the job.
"I have been working very closely with Simon for the last three years almost," he said. "I have learnt a lot from him; right from preparation to getting into the game, decision making, handling big players, match management skills, the man-management skills, how to get out of setbacks. All those skills have helped me to become a better umpire. I am very thankful to Simon, it is because of him that I have achieved this dream."
While Ravi says Taufel is his idol, the other umpire he has a lot of "respect and regard" for is England's David Shepherd, who passed away in 2009, having officiated 92 Tests and 172 ODIs over his two-decade career.
"He was a great umpire and great personality," Ravi said. "The way he conducted himself and interacted with the players, had a good relationship with the players is something fantastic. "
A keen cricketer himself, Ravi represented Madras Universities and played in the senior division league in Chennai for many years. Umpiring, he explains was the best way to "keep in touch" with the game. But due to such commitments, he will now need more time off from his day job as Special Assistant at the Reserve Bank of India, where he has worked since 1989.
"The bank has been kind to me so far," he chuckles when asked if they are happy to let him take time off to go on umpiring duties. He also says his family will "have to cope" with the additional travel required as part of the 12-man elite panel. And what about his dream assignment now that he finds himself among the world's top umpires?
"An Ashes Test match at Lord's."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75