Eight-man panel established to lift standards October 18, 2007

Full-time umpires introduced in New Zealand

Cricinfo staff

Billy Bowden heads the new panel © Getty Images

New Zealand Cricket has moved to improve the standards of umpiring in the country by establishing an elite panel of eight officials. The development means umpires will be expected to be available on a full-time basis throughout the 2007-08 season.

Brian Aldridge, the NZC umpires manager, said forming the panel was an important moment for the game in New Zealand. "Historically, umpiring has been a part-time leisure activity for individuals engaged in other careers," he said. "This initiative points to a commitment to upgrade the standing, standards and professionalism of umpiring. Being engaged on a full-time basis, especially at first-class level, is expected to lift the standards of umpiring. "

Billy Bowden is the only New Zealand umpire on the ICC's elite panel while Gary Baxter and Tony Hill are the country's representatives on the international group. Evan Watkin, who is registered with the ICC as a third official, joins the trio on New Zealand's books along with Barry Frost, Phil Jones, David Quested and Derek Walker.