Devon Malcolm January 24, 2010

'My heart told me to be an umpire'

Devon Malcolm on how he traded one set of whites in for another
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Who was your most feared opponent?
I played against Sachin Tendulkar in India and England, but over there [in India] you had no chance. The wickets were so placid it was ridiculous. Even so, he was a fine player. But my No. 1 batsman was Brian Lara, in his pomp, because he always tried to dominate you. He was a phenomenal player. I always felt he would give me a decent chance before he had made 10. But if you didn't take that chance you knew something big was going to happen. He's not the sort of guy to get out for 101. He likes big hundreds and once he's set, you're in danger. He's unorthodox with that bat-swing and his mental attitude is to try and hit every ball for four.

What's the funniest thing you've seen on a cricket field?
On my first trip to Australia we were practicing at the WACA in Perth ahead of the Test. By then John Morris had been punished for the Tiger Moth incident and was being made to carry the drinks and do the mitt work at practice sessions. We were doing fielding drills under lights and I threw the ball in from the deep towards John. I really let it rip. He lost the ball in the lights and missed it completely. He took it straight between the eyes. Man, it felled him! We all cracked up.

What have you done since retiring from the game?
I set up a business called Johnjac Cricket Supplies. We manufacture cricket field equipment like sightscreens, roll-on covers, black and white-sided sightscreens, which we have supplied to Leicestershire and Essex. I also patented a product called the cricket concertina, a space-saving fold-up cricket net, which we now supply to the Cricket Foundation so that kids can play in the playground and whack the ball as far as they want without hitting it over a wall or onto the road.

Did you ever fancy becoming a county coach?
I took the courses and passed to become a Level II coach, even though I love watching the game and prefer being outdoors rather than stuck in the indoor nets. I still play a bit of cricket, so I've kept pretty fit and love being outdoors. Cricket has been good to me and I want to keep that connection. It's in my blood.

I then took my Level III coaching certificate and was ready to deal with Level IV, but your heart has got to be fully into things like that and my heart was telling me I'd rather be an umpire.

When did you first think of becoming an umpire?
About five years ago. But there was an influx of ex-players onto the ECB first-class umpiring panel and when I first applied I was told I'd be better off waiting a while longer. I've done that now and will take my first batch of umpiring exams this winter [2009] and hope I can get fast-tracked onto the reserve list for next year if I stand in a few games next summer.

As an ex-player which of the umpires do you recall most fondly?
I had a lot of respect for Dickie Bird though he hardly ever gave me an lbw decision. He was consistent in his ways. I also had a lot of time for Ray Julian. He communicated with players and warned you if your front foot was getting close to going over the line and told the batsmen that if they kept walking across and getting their pads in the way, he'd soon be giving them out.

Which umpire would you most like to emulate?
I liked how John Hampshire controlled a game. I played with him for a while at Derbyshire too and he was always straightforward to you as a fellow player or when umpiring a match. You've got to be in charge of the game without being over-officious.

As a cricketer there were certain umpires I didn't get on with - those who didn't communicate with you, so I'd try not to be that way.

Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport