Reviews ReviewsRSS FeedFeeds

Slow Death: Memoirs of a Cricket Umpire

Honest but hazy

Amid all the statistical highlights, you get a look at the man behind the umpire, but it's a fuzzy image

Suresh Menon

July 25, 2010

Text size: A | A

Cover of Rudi Koertzen's autobiography <i>Slow Death: Memoirs of a Cricket Umpire</i>
Enlarge
Related Links

If you have the patience to read through the early roll call of matches umpired, individual performances and statistical highlights, you will be rewarded when you finally get to the halfway mark. For that is when umpire Rudi Koertzen, or his ghostwriter, finally decides to give us a glimpse into the man and his thoughts on the game.

"Slow Death" is Koertzen's nickname, for the manner in which his left arm was raised to give a batsman out. Koertzen is one of the most respected umpires in the world, with over 100 Tests and 200 one-day internationals to his name, and through it all, has had the best seat in the house. So few umpires bother to put their thoughts down, that when one does, we expect a point of view that is unique and a set of anecdotes only he is privy too.

But the obsession with recording statistics (which Cricinfo does so much better anyway), takes away from the insights into the game, while Koertzen the man remains hazy.

Still, the value of the book lies in its honesty. Koertzen, like umpires anywhere, has made mistakes, and is man enough to own up. There is no attempt to sweep the World Cup final fiasco of 2007, for example, under the carpet.

In the most rewarding chapter of the book, "The Highs and Lows of Umpiring", Koertzen tells us about the time he apologised to Brett Lee for denying him the wicket of Kevin Pietersen in the Lord's Test of 2005 ("I just lost sight of the ball at the last moment, and it cost Lee a wicket"), or to Kumar Sangakkara, caught by Ricky Ponting at slip in 2007 when the batsman was on 192 ("Replays showed that the ball had, in fact, come off his shoulder").

"One has to grow quite thick-skinned to survive," says Koertzen of his job, "but there comes a time in many people's lives when things become too much."

The pressure comes in different forms. "In the 2005 Ashes series, when the weather was dicey," writes Koertzen, "and Pietersen scored that 158, Shane Warne said to me, 'I have to bowl England out,' as if expecting me to make that happen!"

The occasional slip-up jars, as when Muttiah Muralitharan is referred to as "Muri", or when Sadagoppan Ramesh is "Rajesh Ramesh".

Koertzen's views on technology, on match-fixing, on the best players of his time are pragmatic, progressive, and underline the deep love he has for the game. He hopes that it will be said of him (as it was of David Shepherd) that "For him cricket was a lovely game, a simple game, and a game to be enjoyed. He himself brought so much enjoyment to so many of us."

Slow Death: Memoirs of a Cricket Umpire
by Rudi Koertzen (with Chris Schoeman)
Zebra Press
Paperback 225 pages

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

RSS Feeds: Suresh Menon

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Suresh MenonClose
Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.

    A year of triumph and disaster

Martin Crowe: Misbah, McCullum, and the ICC's efforts against chucking were the positive highlights in a year that ended with the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death

    Two fortresses called Brisbane and Centurion

Numbers Game: Australia haven't lost at the Gabba since 1988, while South Africa have a 14-2 record in Centurion

Zimbabwe's decade of hurt

The Cricket Monthly: Ten years ago 15 white Zimbabwean cricketers went on strike. The game has not been the same since
Download the app: for iPads | for Android tablets

    'Lara v McGrath was a great battle of our generation'

Dravid and Manjrekar discuss Brian Lara's adaptability

Would Brearley have picked Cook as captain?

Nicholas Hogg: Cook lacks certain qualities the ex-England captain listed as those fitting of an ideal leader, in particular, charisma

News | Features Last 7 days

The perfect Test

After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.

Kohli attains batting nirvana

Virat Kohli's innings on the final day transcended the conditions, the bowlers and his batting partners, and when it was all in vain, he displayed remarkable grace in defeat

Australia in good hands under proactive Smith

The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game

What ails Rohit and Watson?

Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena

Karn struggles to stay afloat

The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be

News | Features Last 7 days

    BCCI's argument against DRS not 100% (164)

    Turning your back on a system that the whole cricketing world wants a discussion on, refusing to discuss it because it is not 100%, is not good enough

    Karn struggles to stay afloat (114)

    The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be

    Kohli attains batting nirvana (110)

    Virat Kohli's innings on the final day transcended the conditions, the bowlers and his batting partners, and when it was all in vain, he displayed remarkable grace in defeat

    When defeat isn't depressing (57)

    After a long time we have seen an Indian team and captain enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome stronger opposition in an overseas Test

    What ails Rohit and Watson? (50)

    Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena