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Dickie Bird

'Nobody in the world objected to Dickie Bird'

The former English umpire on his relationship with lbws, the best players he saw, the use of technology and more

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Dickie Bird on the final day of his last County Championship match, Yorkshire v  Warwickshire, Headingley, September 12, 1998
"I always told myself if I was physically fit I would be mentally fit. I tried to make myself concentrate every ball, every hour for seven hours" © PA Photos
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Mr Bird, I am a big fan of you and miss you a lot. What was the reason for your vendetta against lbws? I remember Mike Atherton being shell-shocked when you gave one against him in your final Test. asked Keshav Athreya from India
He wasn't shell-shocked at all. He said he was out and the replay showed he was out. It was the first over of the match, and England were playing India at Lord's. I had no doubt in my mind about it being plumb and he agreed. Lbws are a matter of opinion.

Who would you rate as the best batsman you have seen? asked Matt from New Zealand
Sunil Gavaskar, Barry Richards, Viv Richards, Martin Crowe, Greg Chappell, to name a few, were all great. If I had to pick one, Barry Richards was the best. But the allrounder, in any era, would be Garfield Sobers - we will never see his like again. He was three cricketers rolled into one.

The admiration was mutual. In his books and articles he always said I was the best umpire, and that was a tremendous compliment, coming from the greatest player ever.

How do you concentrate throughout the day? asked Karthick Santhanam from the USA
Honestly, I never had any problem with any professional cricketer throughout my career. As for concentration, I always maintained my fitness. I always told myself, if I was physically fit I would be mentally fit. I tried to make myself concentrate every ball, every hour for seven hours. I kept telling myself, "Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate".

When the West Indian bowlers were at their peak, in the 70s and 80s, did they sledge or abuse the batsmen, or was it only plain banter? Also, how did you tackle them bowling at the bodies of tailenders? asked Dhiren Shah from India
It was only plain banter. I umpired for different generations: in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and I did one in the 2000s when I came out of retirement to do a match between the Rest of the World against the World XI. So that is a long time, nearly 25 years as Test umpire.

If the situation got out of hand I would go up to the bowler, to the captain, and the game used to carry on normally. If there was even a little bit intimidating bowling I would nip it in the bud. I would never allow any bowler to bowl at a tailender, since he cannot defend himself.

What is your opinion on the UDRS? Does it not undermine the authority of the on-field umpire? asked Ananth Swaminathan from India
It does undermine the umpire. We made our own decisions, but now the umpire makes only about two to three decisions. I wouldn't walk out if I were to umpire today. It has become a lot easier for umpires.

Sometimes a team says it doesn't want to play under the supervision of a certain umpire. What do you think the umpire should do in such a situation? asked Shahzad from Pakistan
It is up to the ICC to decide. No country has a say in the matter, but they used to do in my day. Though nobody in the world objected to Dickie Bird.

Are you surprised that football has still not adopted video technology? asked Ashwin Raghu from India
I admire Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, for not adopting technology in football. Football is only 90 minutes, but in cricket you can't keep holding the game up for referral decisions. People pay a lot of money to watch Tests, so you have to keep it flowing.

Do you agree it is important for cricket to do its utmost to retain its heritage: whites, red ball, five-day games, cable-knit sweaters etc? asked James Totty from the UK
I am a traditionalist. But the game has changed so much and the crowds enjoy the coloured gear, the razzmatazz, all the music, so we have got to go along with that now.

Who was the fastest bowler you watched during your career? And what do you think the future holds for English cricket? asked Siddhant Pradhan from India
The fastest bowler ever is Frank Tyson. The best fast bowler has to be Dennis Lillee - the greatest fast bowler.

As for English cricket, there are some fine young players who are coming through and the future looks very good indeed.

You were known for not giving lbws until you were 100% sure. How do you think the new referral system would have affected your lbw calls? asked Karthikeyan from India
There are so many things that need to be taken into consideration while making an lbw decision. So you cannot go by Hawk-Eye, because it cannot tell the state of the pitch, how much the ball bounced, how much it seamed, how much it swung in the air. Everybody will tell you Hawk-Eye is not perfect. The only man who can give lbws is the on-field umpire.

 
 
"You cannot go by Hawk-Eye because it cannot tell the state of the pitch, how much the ball bounced, how much it seamed, how much it swung in the air. Everybody will tell you Hawk-Eye is not perfect. The only man who can give lbws is the on-field umpire"
 

Who do you think is the best umpire currently in world cricket, and why? asked Varun from Australia
It is difficult to say who is the best umpire in the world now, because all the decisions are made by electronic aids. All the authority has been by taken away from the umpire.

What has been your funniest moment on a cricket field? asked Harish from India
Once, Allan Lamb brought a walkie-talkie along in his pocket. He asked me if I could keep it. I wouldn't have it because it was in the middle of a Test. But he gave it to me and it buzzed - it was Ian Botham calling me.

Which batsman was most sporting when it came to accepting your decisions, and which one least? asked Jitesh Sinha from the USA
Throughout my career I never had a batsman dispute my decision.

Dickie Bird, a retired umpire now, is busy with the Dickie Bird Foundation, which works with underprivileged children across England to help them with all sports. It is run by five trustees who give out grants to give youngsters a start in life.

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