South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban December 28, 2006

Shepherd calls on ICC to appoint more umpires

Cricinfo staff
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An unwell Mark Benson leaves the field at Durban © Getty Images
Former Test umpire David Shepherd has warned that leading umpires face burn-out unless the ICC tackles the issue and appoints more officials to its elite panel.

Shepherd's comments came after Mark Benson was forced from the field with heart palpitations on the third day of the Durban Test between South Africa and India. He spent the night under observation in a local hospital.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Shepherd, who stood in 92 Tests, said that the number of umpires should be increased. At the moment there are nine elite officials - Darrell Hair has yet to be replaced - who have to stand in an increasing number of Tests and ODIs. While the ICC recently produced figures intended to show that umpires were not being asked to stand too many times, there is an increasing argument that they, like the players, are facing burnout.

"With independent umpires you are always away from home," Shepherd said. "The players at least get to play in Test matches at home but umpires are travelling all the time." It was a refusal to spend so much time away from his family that led to Peter Willey, one of the leading officials, to refuse to join the panel.

"It is tough for the players because they are playing high-grade cricket all the time and careers will not last as long as they did," Shepherd continued. "I can see the same thing happening with umpires. There will be umpire burn-out. The guys are under so much scrutiny. Television is so good these days and so intrusive. There are 20 cameras at a game and that puts the umpires under so much pressure."

But Shepherd admitted that the cost meant that he doubted the ICC would add more to its elite panel.