Daryl Harper October 21, 2009

'I've never apologised to a player'

Daryl Harper talks about that Tendulkar lbw decision from 1999, the worst thing a bowler's said to him, and whether the ICC's Umpire of the Year award is rigged

Have you ever been hit by a batsman's shot?
The worst hit I took was in the West Indies from a Sanath Jayasuriya square cut. The umpires were standing on the off side to accommodate the television cameras as they had only popping-crease run-out cameras on one side. I had no chance to get out of the way of the fierce shot and it hit me fair and square in the middle of the chest. After the batsmen ran for the single they walked up to me and all Sanath could say was, "You cost me four runs". I said, "You got a single out of it." I wore that wound for the next month.

We hear you are taking a Hindi course?
Yes, I have the material here. "Doobara mat poochna [don't ask me again]." I picked that up from a television advertisement in India.

What is the longest flight you have taken?
Recently it took 50 hours from Australia to Sri Lanka, but that was several flights actually, because I detoured to Boston to watch my favourite baseball team, the Red Sox. Luckily they won all their games. And I used my frequent-flyer points for half of the journey.

What has been your most embarrassing moment during a cricket match?
Probably at the WACA during the 1996-97 tri-series. I was talking too much to Pakistan captain Wasim Akram. Ijaz Ahmed had just been run out. The ball was returned to me. The bowler, Patterson Thompson, went back to his bowling mark. I gave Moin Khan his guard and went to my normal position, stood there and waited for the bowler to come charging up. I was focussed, prepared to look at his feet, and all of a sudden he called, "No ball, maan." I thought, what's he talking about, I'm the one that judges if it is a no-ball. As I went to signal dead ball, all of a sudden I felt a rather large, spherical object in my pocket. I hadn't given the bowler the ball back. Thankfully the commentators never realised it.

Have you ever complimented a batsman or bowler on a shot or ball?
The closest I came was on the last ball of the Chennai Test in December 2008, when Sachin [Tendulkar] turned the ball down to fine leg to get his 41st Test century, which helped India beat England, a fortnight after the Mumbai terror attacks. That was one shot I will always remember.

What's the worst thing a bowler has ever said to you?
One Australian legspin bowler [Stuart MacGill] did suggest that I should be using my brain more often. I had just knocked back a couple of lbw appeals against two West Indies batsmen who weren't offering a shot.

Name one thing you do that Dickie Bird couldn't?
I've done more Tests and ODIs than Dickie.

Is there an umpiring record you would like to achieve?
I must admit, doing 100 Tests is something I'm interested in. Only two people have done that so far [Steve Bucknor and Rudi Koertzen], and I don't mind being the third.

Do you think the ICC's Umpire of the Year award is rigged, considering Simon Taufel has won it five times?
Apparently I'm in the top 12. I'll almost be disappointed if I win it because I'm not a person who always gives the predictable answers. I don't mind asking difficult questions of people who are casting the votes. Some umpires are less critical than I am. But Taufel is an outstanding umpire, full stop.

Does Taufel still enjoy looking at his hair in the mirror, as you mentioned once?
He has a little hair at the crown, and I've suggested to him that he do a Harsha Bhogle treatment and have a transplant. At this stage he is only thinking about it.

Why don't you get one?
Because I'm not so vain that I'm concerned about it - if you look at the crown, it is all growing there. I've always told my daughter and son that I have a big forehead.

"I'll almost be disappointed if I win the Umpire of the Year award, because I'm not a person who always gives the predictable answers"

Name one decision you would like to forget.
One that I would like the world to forget is the Sachin [Tendulkar] one, when he ducked a [Glenn] McGrath bouncer, in Adelaide in 1999. I've got the video clip on my laptop still, and you can see it is still out! What I didn't like was, when I left the ground, a lot of friends were expressing their disappointment. "Hey Daryl, we came to see Sachin bat, not to see you umpire." So I said, "Sorry, I was just doing my job." Sunil Gavaskar was the commentator and he agreed, saying it would've been out lbw if the stumps were six inches taller. Sachin was the captain and he didn't mention it in his report - always fair play with Sachin, and he is still a wonderful sportsperson.

Have you ever apologised to a player?
No, I've never apologised. I've made mistakes but there was nothing deliberate about any errors that I ever made. Replays find you out in these times, unlike in the old days, where umpires got away with anything.

Why do you take so much time to bring that finger up?
It's not as slow as some - not as slow as Rudi Koertzen. I did field in the slips when I played cricket and I was quite a good catcher, so I can react reasonably quickly.

What's the best compliment you have got from a player?
I do feature in the opening chapter in Adam Gilchrist's autobiography, where he recorded a comment I made to him about the manner in which he played the game. I was standing in his final Test, and I said, "When you see your parents next, tell them they got it right, they shouldn't have done anything different." In other words, that he turned out to be an outstanding person. He used that in his book.

On another occasion, in an ODI at home, I called a wide down leg side and Gilly protested the decision momentarily, as he thought the ball had deflected off the pads. Then he looked up at the replay and as he passed me at the end of the over, he said, "Sorry about that. I guess that's why you are a world-class umpire and I'm a player."

Do you like guys like him, who walked?
I love the guys who walk. But I don't blame anyone who doesn't walk.

One question the media should not be allowed to ask you?
"Do you think you should retire?"

What's your most treasured cricketing possession?
I have about a dozen autographs from Sir Don Bradman.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo