Mark Benson of England, Billy Doctrove of West Indies and Asad Rauf of Pakistan are the latest additions to the Elite Panel of ICC umpires, increasing the panel's strength from seven to ten. This follows the annual review of umpire performance at the end of March 2006.
The composition of the panel was determined by Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive and Sunil Gavaskar, the chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee. The criteria for selection was the percentage of correct decisions given as well as reports from captains and match referees.
Speed congratulated the new members on their achievement and explained that the panel was expanded with the purpose of reducing the workload of the existing panel, given the current volume of international cricket.
"Umpiring international cricket matches is one of the toughest jobs in world sport and we felt a seven-man panel was probably a little light. We were determined, however, not to expand the panel for the sake of it. So over the last year we have given extra appointments to umpires from the second-tier International Panel who had a good track record in home ODI matches," Speed said in an ICC media release.
Benson made his international umpiring debut in 2004 and has umpired in matches involving all the Test playing countries and is well respected by the players. He was singled out for his creditable performance in the VB Series in Australia earlier this year.
"It is a great honour to be named as one of the Elite Panel," Benson said. "It is important to do the job as well as you can so that you earn the respect of the players."
Rauf recently officiated in the first Test between India and England at Nagpur and has stood in 17 ODIs since 2000. "It's the biggest news of my long cricket career as a player and umpire," he said. "It's a dream come true but I believe the biggest thing is not getting onto the panel but staying there and that will be my focus."
Doctrove has been a familiar figure in ODIs, officiating in as many as 45 games and holds the rare distinction of reaching the top level in both cricket and football. Like Steve Bucknor, a senior panel member, Doctrove is a qualified FIFA referee.
He said, "I feel very proud because it means that I have made good progress in my umpiring levels and I know that my country, Dominica, though a very small one of only 70,000 people will be extremely proud of my achievement as they have always supported and encouraged me throughout my career."
David Richardson, the ICC General Manager - Cricket, and former Test cricketer, congratulated the new members and justified the reasons for their elevation.
He said, "It is important to remember that just as umpires only make it onto the Elite Panel by proving they are excellent officials, they only retain their place if they can maintain these high standards on a consistent basis from year to year. The ICC will be doing everything it can to support them along the way."