Craig learns from new umpiring adventure
June 26, 2018
National Umpire Panel member Shawn Craig believes his recent umpire exchange experience will help him grow as an umpire.
The exchange program, an initiative between Cricket Australia, the BCCI, New Zealand Cricket and Cricket South Africa, sees umpires travel and officiate in another country.
Craig travelled to South Africa, umpiring two Sunfoil Series fixtures, and said he had a brilliant experience.
“I loved it,” he said.
“What normally happens when you travel… you end up going into a town or a city, you go to the hotel you go to the ground. Hotel, ground, hotel, ground – you umpire, and that’s it.
“(South African umpire) Brad White, who I umpired with in Queensland when he came over on exchange, I was then umpiring with him in my first game in East London. I flew into East London, had dinner with his family and we got on like a house on fire.
“We got to experience the real South Africa. From that perspective, I think it was a great adventure, great learning.
“I think it’s good for all umpires to get that exposure, to go elsewhere and meet different people and do different things in different countries. Then if you go to other levels, there’s a lot less things to think about if you progress through the ranks.”
The exchange program aims to provide a number of benefits for umpires, including officiating in foreign conditions, managing unfamiliar teams at new venues, working with new colleagues and building relationships, learning and adopting new Playing Conditions, and experiencing ‘life on the road’ encountered regularly by umpires at the next level.
Craig umpired a match between the Warriors and Knights in East London, before standing in a game between the Lions and Cobras in Potchefstroom, and experienced the foreign conditions that come with umpiring outside of Australia.
“It’s always a little bit different. Different grounds, different conditions, different players and some different laws,” he said.
“But one thing I noticed is they all have two languages, English and Afrikaans, or the majority of players will speak another language, whether it’s Zulu or something else.”
The main thing for Craig though was the ability to manage the match, with the actual decision making not changing much from game-to-game.
“It’s more about the people and match management – the decisions are very similar,” Craig said.
“It’s the ball-by-ball process, the ball-by-ball management and the management of different people and all of those peripheral things that make you a better umpire.
“It’s more coping with things around the cricket, because once you’re on the field, that’s the same.”
A former state cricketer for Victoria, Craig was near the end of his playing days and eyeing off a different challenge when he was approached by former international umpire Bob Parry, who asked if he was interested in becoming an umpire.
“I retired from (Premier club) St Kilda, played another two years of sub-district cricket… and I said to him, well if a Project Panel position is up for grabs, I’ll apply for it,” Craig said.
“Two weeks later it was up for grabs, and the application came up and I applied for it… the rest is history."
Craig says it’s the difficulty of umpiring that appeals to him, and while he understands it is a tough job, that’s what he loves about it.
“I applied for it because I was looking for another challenge. I’d had enough of playing cricket. I was looking for a completely different challenge, and a hard challenge. I thought not many people like umpires, and it’s a bloody hard job to do well,” he said.
“I like taking on those difficult challenges, and I love that challenge of trying to do something well that could almost virtually be impossible to get 100 percent right.
“It is a remarkably good test of character, as much as a test mentally in certain aspects. You’re under scrutiny as much as players, or you feel it.
“Not many people have their boss looking over their shoulder for every minute of the day, and their decisions reviewed instantaneously by 1.2 million people – and getting booed instantaneously if you get it wrong.”
That challenge has Craig, who stood in the Women’s T20 International component of the Women’s Ashes Series last summer, hoping to push up the ranks in Australia in the upcoming years and encouraging others looking for a challenge to join umpiring ranks.
“I’m looking to get into the top echelon in Australia – the guys who are ICC accredited and can do the on-field games in Australia for international T20s and One Dayers,” he said.
“That pressure, the exposure you feel and the mental toughness you have to have to cope with that... and to be able to get the next one right if you get one wrong, is an exceptional test.
“There’s fantastic rewards that you might not see, and fantastic challenges that you may not be aware of until you get into umpiring.”