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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 10:02 GMT
Shepherd faces extra pressure
By Oliver Brett

David Shepherd
I get a bit nervous before any match I do, whether it be a county game, a Test or a one-day game
David Shepherd

Along with Sachin Tendulkar and Shoaib Akhtar, two of the stars he will keep a beady eye in Pakistan, English umpire David Shepherd is one of cricket's biggest icons.

It was no surprise, then, that he was invited to stand in two of the five one-day internationals between Pakistan and India and two of the three Tests between the two sides next month.

The massive sense of occasion is not lost on the amiable 63-year-old, who has stood in 78 Tests and 145 one-day internationals.

"It's obviously a most important series," says Shepherd.

"Thankfully they have come to their senses and are getting back together again and that's great for the game as a whole."

Having made his bow as an international umpire in the 1983 World Cup in a match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Swansea, Shepherd has stood in a wealth of matches involving the two big Asian rivals.

"In the last four or five World Cups I've done India v Pakistan every time," he says.

He acknowledges it will be "different" to stand in a Test between the two sides but says it is important not to think too much about the history or the fiercely partisan support that will greet the matches.

"You must take that out of your mind and go out to do the best you can," he says.

"The grounds are completely surrounded by the fence and that keeps the crowds off the field which is one advantage."

D Shepherd flanked by Indian players
A jovial camaraderie exists between Shepherd and the players

The Australian umpire Simon Taufel has a similar workload to Shepherd during the course of the series.

He is fast gaining a reputation among players as one of the very best, and his much more senior colleague also respects him.

"I've stood with Simon a few times and he's an excellent umpire," says Shepherd.

"He's very young with years of umpiring ahead of him, he's settled in very well and has the respect of a lot of the players."

Shepherd says the fast bowlers could be the key to the outcome of many of the matches.

"Both sides have got some fabulous players. I was lucky enough to do a couple of games of the Australia v India series in Australia and we had two fantastic games of cricket.

"Pakistan have recovered since the World Cup - their coach [Javed] Miandad has had a lot to do with that - so they'll be a good side as well. They have got some good fast bowlers.

"Shoaib [Akhtar] is particularly quick but the boy [Mohammad] Sami is also very quick so we could do with an extra eye some of the time."

All the jet-setting has its down side for the amateur stamp-collector who once helped in the family Post Office business before cricket turned into a 12-month annual circus.

"It's a great pity I can't do more games in England but that's the way of umpiring at the moment," he says.

And despite his vast experience, the Shepherd nerves will be jangling a bit when he steps out to the middle in Peshawar on 19 March.

It's something he is used to by now, though.

"To be honest I get a bit nervous before any match I do, whether it be a county game, a Test or a one-day game. I always get a bit nervous but I think the players do too."

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