There are plenty of gadgets available to make the life of an umpire a little less difficult. From checking weather conditions, to ensuring the correct equipment is being used by players – any self-respecting umpire will make sure to have these gadgets ready at their disposal.
Cricket Umpires use devices to help them in their duties. These devices help in many aspects of the game’s play – including counting the number of balls bowled, making sure all the equipment is sized as per regulation standards, and even whether the conditions are fit for play.
There are plenty of tools out there to help umpires stay on top of all these jobs. Here’s a list of the best and most popular gadgets used by umpires today. Some are must-haves while others have yet to catch on – either way, every umpire should know what they are.
1. Ball Counter
A Ball Counter is a must for every cricket Umpire. It’s a small, hand-held device to help keep track of how many balls have been bowled in each over, and how many overs have been bowled in total.
If you’re looking to buy a good ball counter, my recommendation is this one [on Amazon]. It is really durable and affordable.
While you might spot some old-timers using six small stones (collected from the side of the outfield) to keep track of this simple but important aspect of the game, this saves you having to scramble around before the start of play looking for a few rocks to shove in your pocket!
With at least six balls in an over and often more than 40 overs in a match, you want to worry less about counting and focus all of your mental energy on more difficult aspects of the game – such as whether that last ball pitched outside the line of off stump or not!
2. Stump Gauge
Speaking of stumps, it’s important that the umpire is able to check that they are correctly set up at the start of the match. This intimidating but simple piece of equipment enables umpires to quickly check the measurements of the stump placements before the start of play.
For stump gauges to last long, it is important that they are made from a good material such as cast iron like the one from Gray Nicholas [on Amazon]
While this responsibility will more often than not fall on the shoulders of the groundsmen, a diligent umpire will make sure to have one of these in his armory in order to make sure that the regulations are being met.
Stumps must be at least 1.38 inches in diameter and total exactly 9 inches across when lined up together. To make sure that they fit these regulations an umpire should have one of these rather scary looking pieces of kit ready to stick in the wicket before the start of play.
3. Ball Gauge
Just as with checking that the stumps aren’t too close enough together, it’s equally important to make sure that the ball is the right size and shape throughout the match.
Cricket balls are made by wrapping a spherical cork core in leather. This is bound with string, which holds the two hemispheres of leather together. Although rock solid at the start of play, these materials take a lot of wear and tear during a day’s action – especially when a batsman has got his eye in and starts launching it over the boundary.
The ball gauges are used by umpires to make sure that the ball has remained in a suitable condition and shape, so as not to disadvantage batsmen or fielders with an awkward bounce.
4. Bat Gauge
Over the years, bats have been many different sizes and have even been made of materials other than the traditional oak that is now ubiquitous with the sport. Up until 1979, for example, players even experimented with the use of aluminium bats.
For the most part, however, bats have remained roughly the same. The laws of the game stipulate that a cricket bat must be no more than 38 inches (96.5cm) long, no more 4.25 inches (10.8cm) wide. They must also have a depth of at least 2.64 inches (67mm).
This simple piece of kit is used to make sure bats are the right width and shape. The umpire simply has to slide it over a bat, and if it fits through then the batsman is good to go.
Maybe the great WG Grace might not have got away with his allegedly over-sized bat, had more umpires been carrying one of these in their overcoat pocket.
5. Light Meter
Cricket is a game that has traditionally required very specific conditions in order for play to take place. As well as having a nice dry field, it’s also important that there is the right amount of light. If it gets too dark, the game can quickly become dangerous.
Cricket balls are notoriously hard and it’s imperative that all players (and spectators) are able to see the ball as best as possible. It’s one of the reasons why using floodlights has become more commonly accepted, and why pink and white balls have begun to be used in both the long and short forms of the game.
Since 2010, umpires have had the sole right to declare that a lack of light can lead to the end of play. Batsmen had previously been offered the ability to make that decision for themselves if they wished to carry on batting, despite it being harder to see the ball.
It can be a welcome sight for the team hanging on for a draw when the umpire reaches for the light meter and you will often see umpires beginning to utilise this piece of kit as the sun draws in towards the end of a day’s play – particularly in test matches.
While using the light meter, it is important to ensure that the readings are visible even under low lighting conditions. Some light meters are better equipped at this than others such as this Digital Light Meter by Dr. Meter [on Amazon].
However, there aren’t any concrete rules as to the levels of light that are required for play to continue. As such, it can be a difficult and contentious decision for umpires to make – even with this clever bit of tech to help them. Although, as a rule of thumb, if light levels drop below 1,000 lux you can expect play to be called to a halt.
In the amateur game, you might notice umpires generally communicate with a raised eyebrow or subtle hand gesture; occasionally they might bark a question to the scorers sat beyond the boundary.
However, serious umpires in both the professional and amateur games will make communicating with their colleagues a lot more straight-forward through the use of walkie-talkies.
The walkie talkies that pro-level umpires use are professional-grade devices. These devices have to be black such that it doesn’t distract the players, and usually, come with an earpiece (like the Retevis RT 24 16 Channel Walkie Talkie [on Amazon]).
Especially in games with big crowds, it can be hard for umpires to talk to each other between the wicket and square leg – let alone trying to talk to the third umpire sat in a booth way up in the stands.
That’s why many professional umpires have in-ear systems that allow them to communicate their various colleagues around the ground. While in the amateur game, a classic hand-held walkie-talkie can make relaying information, such as to the bowler’s name, to the scoring box, that little bit less arduous.
7. Arm Guard
Definitely one of the less conventional gadgets to be found among the umpire’s collection, this relatively new invention was introduced to the cricketing world by the Australian umpire turned inventor, Bruce Oxenford.
Oxenford came up with this gadget, following the death of a fellow umpire who died after being struck in the head by a ball during a match in Israel in 2014. This tragedy highlighted the safety risks umpires face.
They stand just 22 yards from the batsmen and while close fielders, wicketkeepers and batsmen are allowed to wear helmets, pads and gloves; umpires are left in the firing line without any protective gear.
The prototype, which he had made for himself, has been used by Oxenford in the IPL as well as in major international tournaments. However, it has not been picked up as a must-have item by any of his professional counterparts.
Some umpires do now choose to wear baseball style facemasks, but most appear not to have heeded Oxenford’s warning and continue to carry on without protection. Time will tell if his safety gadget will catch on among the umpiring community in the future, but for now, it isn’t a staple inclusion for umpires as they pack their bags and head out to officiate.
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