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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Taufel wary of more technology
By Scott Heinrich
BBC Sport at Edgbaston

Who'd be an umpire? Only the thick-skinned should apply, according to Simon Taufel, probably the best in the world at present.

Simon Taufel off duty at Edgbaston
Technology is all about replacing the skills of the umpire
Simon Taufel

"Umpires are always there to be shot down.

"We are soft targets. We are on a hiding to nothing, because if we get it right
no-one says anything, but if we get something wrong everybody's an expert," he tells BBC Sport.

At 33, it was a huge achievement when the International Cricket Council recently named him Umpire of the Year.

"Individually, it's a huge honour, but more importantly it's recognition for the contribution that umpires make," the Australian adds.

"We are not the drawcard and we don't seek to be. But I'd like to think we add something to the game.

"We see lots of negative coverage for umpires, so this is a plus. Hopefully it will lead to more people taking up cricket umpiring."

Never before have umpires been under such scrutiny, thanks to a rash of technological advances.

Not only have decisions like run-outs and catches been taken out of their hands, but varied camera angles act as judge and jury on all others.

For the first time in a major tournament, arbiters at the Champions Trophy are wearing earpieces linked to stump microphones and the third umpire is helping out on no-ball calls.

Research conducted by the ICC shows that the Elite Panel gets it right about 92% of the time. In most walks of life that would be enough, but not in umpiring.

"Now, do you apply technology to take over the discrepancy, or do you say that's just part of the game?" Taufel asks.

SIMON TAUFEL FACTFILE
Born: 21.1.1971
1st Test as umpire: Australia v West Indies, Melbourne 200-01
1st ODI as umpire: Australia v Sri Lanka, Sydney 1997-98
To date he has stood in 17 Tests and 64 ODIs

"There's probably no right or wrong answer to the question of whether there is enough or not enough technology in cricket.

"I wouldn't say I'm anti-technology, but I'm cautious about it.

"How far do you go? If you're a true believer in HawkEye, batsmen would average 20 and Tests would be over in three days, so in my mind that changes the way the game is played."

The irony of an award designed to raise the profile of umpires at a time when technology is shunting them to the background is not lost on Taufel.

"Technology is all about replacing the skills of the umpire and I'd like to think I've worked my way up this far to employ those skills," he says.

"Why de-skill that part of the game just for the sake of an extra two or three correct decisions per game?

"There are undoubtedly pluses, but we need to sit down and stack them against the minuses."

It sounds like Taufel is complaining, but nothing could be further from the truth.

He loves his job and has brought a passion and devotion to umpiring that is heralding a new age in the profession.

Aside from his clarity of judgement, Taufel's youth sets him apart from ageing officials like David Shepherd and Darrell Hair.

"It's all part of the evolution of the game," he says.

England v Zimbabwe
Taufel waits for the next lbw shout

"The model of the traditional umpire is changing, both in terms of physique and professionalism.

"It's no longer good enough to simply turn up to the next match, count to six, give the outs and not-outs and walk off. There is more money and politics involved in the game now.

His career has been free of controversy - apart from four days of folly at Trent Bridge earlier this year.

Taufel's decision-making skills deserted him for the third Test between England and New Zealand, a performance that attracted widespread criticism.

"That was new territory for me to be quite honest.

"It was my worst game and I felt really terrible. I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't put my mistakes behind me in that Test and move on and just concentrate on the next ball," Taufel admits.

"I learned some really valuable lessons. I've come out of that match stronger."




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