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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 13:41 GMT
Farewell to all that
Protesters in Delhi
Denness provoked outrage in India last November
Mike Denness looks back on his occasionally controversial career as a match referee with BBC Sport Online's Martin Gough.

Mike Denness has better excuse than most to be out in the garden, doing what he terms a "late autumn clear-up".

It has been a busy few months for the former England captain, who returned only a fortnight ago from Sharjah.

For what turned out to be the last time, he took on the role of International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee for the series between Pakistan and West Indies.


If Tony Blair and George Bush have had effigies burned than I'm in good company
Mike Denness
And, back in November, he had his hands full as his name appeared perhaps in more newspaper headlines than it did during his playing career.

Controversy surrounded his punishment of six Indian players following the second Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

The battle that followed between India and the ICC meant that the inclusion of Denness on its new, elite panel of referees was always going to be unlikely.

And, at 63, he did not fit the profile of the full-time officials named on Friday, although he was one of those nominated for the role by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Mike Denness
Denness is chairman of Kent and the ECB pitch committee
"It would have been a big surprise if I had been named," says Denness, fresh from the garden.

"It was nice to know that the ECB had nominated me but nobody from the ICC had contacted me about it and I hadn't been interviewed so I wasn't holding my breath.

"It was good to get away from the English winter for one or two series each year and I took pleasure in watching cricket and staying in touch with the players."

Closed book

Those pleasantries were disrupted chaotically late last year, though. His effigy was burned in the streets and he was branded "Denness the Menace" by the Indian media.

The decision to penalise Sachin Tendulkar for "action on the ball" and several of his team-mates for excessive appealing threw international cricket into crisis.

Indian newspaper headlines
The India media were outraged by Denness' actions
Denness was deposed for the final match of the series, against ICC rules, and the match was stripped of Test status.

The softly-spoken Scotsman has attempted to close the book on those events, though, saying that anything that happened and was said remained in South Africa when he left.

"If Tony Blair and George Bush have had effigies burned than I'm in good company," he jokes.

"Of course you family at home is going to be concerned, but you really have to keep an open mind on it.

"The ICC convened a commission to look at the incident and perform a total review of match refereeing and there is really no better time to do that, with full-time referees being appointed for the first time."

Professionalism

Denness believes that the ICC has chosen the right five men for its elite panel.

And he unwittingly suggested to former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd in Sharjah that he should make a return to refereeing.

Clive Lloyd
Lloyd makes a return to match-refereeing
He sees these appointments, combined with the naming this week of eight full-time Test umpires, as a first step in bringing the best officials to the top of the sport.

"If you believe that a referee is needed then this is a positive step, encouraging people to view it as a profession.

"It's the same with umpires - England is the only country where they are full-time. You've got to make it worthwhile.

"I assume they have another generation in mind - it has to work like a conveyor belt. At the end of their two-year-contracts, someone is going to decide it is not for them so new people will have to come through."

While the refereeing profession goes full time, Denness will content himself with a few more years on his summer jobs.

He is chairman of the advisory group that assesses pitch standards in English county cricket and chairman of Kent, the club he captained to six one-day titles from 1972 to '76.

And, of course, there's some work to catch up on in the garden.

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