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Saturday, 21 October, 2000, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Dickie Bird: Your questions answered
Legendary umpire Harold 'Dickie' Bird is publishing his new book, 'White Cap and Bails', the sequel to his acclaimed autobiography.
A veteran of 66 test matches, Bird has also agreed to answer the questions from the readers of BBC Sport Online, offering a revealing insight into 29 years at the heart of international cricket.
Do you think modern players, both professional and amateur, use bats that are far too heavy?
Yes, I do. What it does is restrict the stroke play. When I played county cricket, my bat weighed 2lbs 4oz. I was just an average cricketer, but Len Hutton, Garfield Sobers and the other great players, people like that, all used bats that weighed the same amount. I do think heavy bats restrict the stroke play. I think most players nowadays use bats that are on the heavy side.
After England's wonderful win over the West Indies, do you think we have a realistic chance against the Australians next summer?
This winter is very crucial for English cricket. If we beat Pakistan in this Test series coming up, and if we beat Sri Lanka, then I think we have turned the corner and we have a tremendous chance of beating the Australians. I think that beating the West Indies has brought the morale up and it has been a breath of fresh air for English cricket and now the players are very confident. I think they have a good chance.
I'm a fellow Barnsley man attempting to be successful in my chosen career, but how do you feel your career was shaped by your background?
I had a wonderful upbringing and wonderful parents, who gave me so much encouragement, and I think that was a tremendous help in my career. They installed this mental strength to believe in myself and go forward to succeed and I'm so grateful to my background, my upbringing and my parents. I can't thank them enough for the encouragement they gave me.
What do you think of the young talent of the Pakistani players today?
I think Pakistan is probably one of the best nations in the world at the moment for bringing the youngsters on. They've got some fine young players, and young all-round cricketers as well. It's amazing that there are so many of them coming along now in Pakistan, fine players. I'm talking about lads who are 18,19, 20.
I admire Pakistan because they get them into the side and there is a lot to be said for that. I think Pakistan have got a great future in Test cricket because of the standard of these young players.
The England Under-19 side has been one of the best in the world for a fair few years now, so why do these players hardly seem to feature in the Test squad, let alone the team?
That is a very good point. I have always said this. He's right. We have been the best in the world at Under-19 level and I would have continued with them, brought a lot of them forward and had them in the Test side.
I think Marcus Trescothick should have played three years ago, and the same goes for Michael Vaughan. We talk about Vaughan being a good young prospect. But he's 26 years of age.
Pakistan keep the continuation going, and so do Australia and India. You only gain experience by playing.
You have had a real close look at many of the world's best batsmen, which ones have really impressed you?
In my time as a player and an umpire, Garfield Sobers is the greatest all-round cricketer that I have ever seen. Sunil Gavaskar of India was a great player. Vivian Richards. Barry Richards was a great player - it was a tragedy that he was lost to Test cricket. And Greg Chappell was a great batsman.
The best batsman in the world today is Sachin Tendulkar of India.
What was the greatest Test century that you witnessed as an umpire and why?
Probably Viv Richards when he got 290-something at The Oval against England. That was the best knocks I've seen at Test level. It had so much grace and power. That was a tremendous knock.
Who do you think was the better leg-spinner, Abdul Qadir or Shane Warne? I think it was Qadir he revived the art of leg-spin.
I put Qadir in front of Warne - you are right about him reviving the art of leg-spin. I think Qadir had some problems with the Pakistan cricket board. If not, he would have broken all records. He was the best, don't let anyone kid you. Definitely.
Dennis Lillee was the greatest fast bowler I have ever seen, and if there has been a better one in history, I would love to have seen him bowl. Then there are people like Richard Hadlee - tremendous. Malcolm Marshall. Michael Holding. Going on to wicket keepers, I thought Alan Knott was the best.
All-rounders, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan. I could go on forever.
Who is the best umpire you have worked with?
I won't pick anyone out individually. I have enjoyed working with all umpires throughout the world. They are tremendous blokes.
As a final word, can I just thank all readers for the tremendous support they have given me throughout my career. I'm tremendously grateful for it.
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