My attention was recently drawn to a post which former umpire and current manager of VOC1, Steve Tovey, has placed on the CricketEurope forum. His comments deal with the decline which he sees in umpiring standards in the Dutch competition since 2007, the years following his departure from the Umpiring Committee (SRC).
He remarks in his post on a decline in the number of umpires, as well as in the quality. This led me to think: is it true? Have all the efforts of the SRC been in vain? Such questions demand closer examination. This I have done, with the following results.
In the annual report of the SRC for 2013, presented to the general meeting of the KNCB, it is shown that the number of umpires has actually increased since it reached its lowest point in 2007. This is also true of the number of match days and the various percentages of matches covered in the different categories:
Numbers of active umpires in recent seasons
In view of the fact that there is no evidence of a quantitative decline, we can also ask how things stand with regard to the quality of the umpires. Quality is difficult to define. What exactly does it consist of? Everyone has their own subjective opinion on the matter. In my professional field we always maintained a standard for defining quality: the degree of value assigned by those who are the recipients of your product. This seems in practice to be a very useful definition. The SRC employs the same principle in its use of the captainís reports which are filled in after each match (a brief questionnaire, supplemented by an overall assessment expressed in a mark between 1 and 10). The playing conditions require that the clubs co-operate in this system of evaluation established by the SRC.
The following table from the 2013 annual report of the SRC shows the extent to which captains have conformed to this requirement in recent seasons:
The relevant captainsí reports were forwarded to the present author, who together with the secretary of the SRC processes and archives them.
How do the captains in the Dutch competitions see our umpires? The following table gives us some insight into this:
Overall evaluations of the umpires, based on the submitted captainís reports
In absolute terms a mark of 7.7 in all divisions in 2014 (to date) suggests that there is general a highly positive evaluation of the umpiring corps by the captains. There is clearly more criticism in the Topklasse, but even there the assessment is that the umpires are more than adequate.
Although statistics do not tell the whole story, it is pleasing that there seems in any event to be no statistical evidence of a decline in quality. On the contrary, there even appears to be a suggestion of an improved assessment.
Are these results coincidental? I do not believe so. Can they not be attributed, at least in part, to the efforts of the SRC. Since 2007 the whole training and development system for umpires, partly through initiatives of ICC Europe, has be re-examined and renewed. There are courses for Bondsumpires, a shortened course for Bondsumpires designed for recently-retired players who have experience at the highest level of domestic cricket, courses are offered at Levels 1, 1A and 2C, there is an exchange programme with the Birmingham and District League, and the SRC has appointed three tutors. A system of umpire assessments (both Ďboundary assessmentsí and Ďon-field assessmentsí) has also been established, and an age limit has been set for umpires in the Topklasse.
28 July 2014