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March 23, 2009
The record-holding umpire Steve Bucknor has bowed out of Test cricket with an appeal of his own: leave the decision-making in the hands of the on-field officials. Bucknor, 62, completed his 128th and final Test on Sunday, when South Africa wrapped up an innings defeat against Australia in Cape Town.
The three-Test series was the first time Bucknor had been involved in the player referral system and there were plenty of tight calls that the TV umpires were asked to officiate on over the past month. Bucknor said he had no qualms about experimenting with the system but felt it should be the standing umpires, not the players, who send decisions upstairs for review.
"We know when the decisions are tough and marginal - we know," Bucknor said. "I believe that we are the ones who should be going up there to say, 'third umpire, have a look at this, it is marginal', because ... when a team has used its two referrals, that is when they have failed twice, they have no more.
"So the umpires still can make mistakes and these mistakes could be costly. I have nothing against the experiments but we know when the decisions are tight. And rather than having a team not capitalising ... because they have used all their referrals, I hope that later on it should be the umpires asking rather than the players."
Bucknor said it was a surprising and joyful moment when he walked on to the field for what would turn out to be his final session of Test cricket and received a guard of honour from both teams. As he lingered on the Newlands ground after South Africa's victory late in the day, the realisation began to kick in that it was the end of a 20-year Test career.
"There was a sense of sadness walking around the field because I knew that that was the last time setting foot on a Test field," Bucknor said. "But not necessarily coming here this morning. I came here this morning, I came to work and I was prepared to work today and tomorrow. When it was over, that's when the sadness came in, to know that there's not going to be any more."
After the South Africans won the game with ten minutes to spare on the fourth day, Bucknor knelt on the pitch and offered a prayer. It was a touching moment that highlighted the humility of Bucknor, a devout Christian who reads from the Bible each morning.
"I was giving thanks," he said. "I'm a believer and I said 'thank-you Lord, you have taken me through, and it all seems to have gone well'."
No umpire has stood in more Tests than Bucknor and it will take some time to catch up to him; the next on the list is Rudi Koertzen, who with 99 Tests to his name needs to stand in a further 30 matches to pass Bucknor. The final international appearances for Bucknor will be during the ODIs between West Indies and England in Barbados this Friday and Sunday.
Plays of the day from the CLT20 game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings