Umpiring in an Indian Summer
Published on 18 Jul 2017
It's not every day one has the opportunity to umpire cricket in India but that's exactly what Northern Districts umpire Lachie Rutherford has been doing during our off season. Find out about his experiences umpiring in one of Chennai's 1st division leagues below....
After my first match at Chepauk Stadium I was invited to a press conference for the TNPL. TNPL is the Tamil Nadu Premier League, it is referred to a mini IPL for the just the region of Tamil Nadu. I was able to met a lot of people from within the club at this event, given that most of the speaking was delivered in Tamil, I was only able to pick up and understand a few words. After the conference I had a lot of media introducing themselves and thanking me for coming to India. Cricket is like a religion in India and everyone is very happy to talk about cricket and share their experiences.
The second fixture that I was appointed to was at IC Gurunanak College. This ground was on the other side of Chennai, roughly 25 minutes drive and I was quite anxious on how I was going to navigate myself there and back. Luckily TNCA had arranged a driver to pick me up in the morning, wait for the game to finish and drive me home for each day. It was very well arranged and it took a lot of stress out of the experience.
IC Gurunanak College was a completely different venue to Chepauk Stadium. Chepauk stadium was sheltered from the wind so when I arrived at IC Gurunanak College I was welcomed with a warm breeze. It was a pleasant temperature of 32 degrees each day but when the temperature cools down the flies come out - in the mornings the college is like a butterfly sanctuary! They are everywhere, swarms of them all over the cricket ground. In the afternoon there were massive flies buzzing around my face and body, it was another experience to deal with while I am trying to concentrate. Luckily the flies don't bite but they were incredibly loud and annoying!
The cricketers were very well behaved and no one stepped out of line - they were very respectful and accepted your decision either way. I was standing with some very experienced Indian umpires that took the language barrier out of the equation. I gained a lot of experience with these guys and learnt a lot of umpire communication that was key in working together on decisions.
There is so much to look back and take from this experience, especially in 3 day match formats. These games are not as popular in New Zealand so the experience was perfect for me. The balls that were used in Chennai didn't hold up very well, every day the ball would split or become out of shape, it was good practice replacing the ball each time as this was a uncommon experience for me.
There was plenty happening all the time although the game play was very slow. The bowlers struggled to keep up with the required 15 overs per hour over-rate and there were players taking drinks regularly so there was plenty of allocations to note down each day. Keeping track of these allocations in the harsh heat was key to make sure the bowling team were meeting the required overrate.
I can't put this experience into words, I am incredibly fortunate to have been given an opportunity like this and would recommend other fellow umpires to jump abroad next winter and umpire cricket in a completely new culture. This experience was invaluable.
I have always been one to do things differently, I like trying new things and doing things that others haven't done and have always loved traveling to new cultures and creating experiences.
I had been thinking about travelling overseas and umpiring for a while - I wanted something completely new and off the grid. I knew my friend Mohit was from India so I reached out for a possibility of umpiring in India. Luckily he knew someone in Chennai and I started to make contact in January 2017. After six months of contact via email. I was appointed two TNCA matches (Tamil Nadu Cricket Association). These games are 3 day matches and I was excited and ready for the experience.
I didn't know what to expect from India. I did a lot of research prior arriving, what to do and what not to do etc. As soon as I arrived in Chennai I was greeted with the heat rushing into my face and all the taxi drivers rushing towards me as I was an obvious traveller. Nothing could have prepared to me for the heat and humidity - I arrived there at 8am and it was already 34 degrees! After dropping my bags off at the hotel I decided to head out and see Chennai myself. The traffic is crazy, I don't think there are any road rules. There are people riding motorbikes with no helmets, tuk tuk drivers everywhere hassling you for taxis as you're walking down the street and constant tooting between cars, bikes and tuk tuk. It was a bit of a rude awakening to reality here in India as I was not expecting it to be this loud.
My first game was at Chepauk Stadium, the main cricket venue in Chennai. There's years of history at this ground, many famous matches were played here and many famous cricketers made history here. Everyone I met at the stadium gave me their own history lesson on the stadium, it was a lot to take in but it was becoming obvious how passionate everyone is about cricket. There is a serious buzz feeling when standing in the middle of a ground with so much history, It was a humbling experience.
Umpiring in constant 35 degree heat is mentally and physically draining. I was sweating all the time. There is no escaping it, I had to embrace the hot weather and go with it. Hydration is key - I was drinking electrolytes before the match, lunch, tea and after the match. The teams had their own chefs to cook their lunches. We as umpires alternated each break to eat from the other teams food. The food was a mixture of South Indian curries, naan, vegetables and sweet milk - Very different to the food in New Zealand which this adds to the experience.