Umpiring is generally a thankless job and that is the reason why many former Indian cricketers who could be in the best position to take it up as a profession – like in other countries – prefer to go into media, coaching or administration. This has led to inadequate representation for India in the ICC Elite Panel.
It speaks volumes of the tenacity of S Venkatraghavan who became the first former Indian cricketer to make it to the ICC Elite panel in 1993. Even in his playing days, he was always cerebral about cricketing matters and I have seen him frequently cornering the umpires when they made an error on some rule or the other. After his playing days were over with umpiring close to his heart he took the arduous umpires exam, passed with flying colors, stood in Tests and ODIs before joining the Elite Panel. Venkat stood in 73 Tests and 52 ODIs earning a name as one of the best in the business.
Venkat retired in 2004 and India for long after that did not have a representative in the Elite Panel till Sundaram Ravi was elevated in 2011. Ravi didn’t play first-class cricket but made it to the top list on merit. He too earned a name as an efficient official though late in his career he did make some errors that came under scrutiny thanks to incessant live TV coverage. Ravi stood in 33 Tests, 48 ODIs, and 26 T-20 internationals before being removed from the Elite Panel last year.
India’s latest representative is Nitin Menon who has been included in the Elite Panel of umpires for 2020-21. At 36 Menon is one of the youngest to be included in this list. He was earlier part of the international panel and replaces England’s Nigel Llong in the Elite roster. Menon who began his umpiring career in 2017 has officiated in three Tests, 24 ODIs, and 16 T-20 internationals in men’s cricket besides standing in ten women’s T-20 internationals including the 2018 and 2020 World Cups. Umpiring comes naturally to Menon as he is the son of Narendra Menon a former first-class cricketer for Madhya Pradesh who officiated in four ODIs in the 90s.
Adrian Griffith, the ICC’s senior manager of umpires and referees congratulated Menon saying “he has come through our pathway system with very consistent performances.’’ On his part, Menon said the elevation was a responsibility to take Indian umpires forward and help them by sharing his experiences.
Simon Taufel who has worked extensively with Indian umpires said he was not surprised by Menon’s elevation as his talent was evident some years ago. “It takes many years to get to being world-class through commitment, dedication, and resilience.’’ Taufel hoped that with Menon’s elevation there is a role model for many Indian umpires who aspire to be among the best. “Hopefully, it will encourage the BCCI to keep investing in their development programmes for match officials,’’ he said
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