The Ciara Metcalfe Column
Inge Bevers interview
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Tell us a little about yourself?
Ingeborg Bevers (I use Inge for short as so many people can't pronounce it), born in 1964 in a small village in Netherlands.
As far as I know the only person in the entire history of my family to be involved in cricket. Always been a bit of a nerd, never excelled in something but more of a generalist.
How did you get involved cricket umpiring?
Until 2000 cricket wasn't part of my life even though I followed it a bit, an ex-boyfriend played it, and I even got my parents to by us (sister and me) a bat after a holiday in England & Wales. I honestly can't say how I didn't get involved in cricket, as I played hockey next door from UD, at that time one of the best cricket clubs in Netherlands and friends & teammates of us were very much involved in cricket.
I guess the fact that I was hockey mad, spent hours in the gym - as in beam, uneven bars, etc, played music, a bit of tennis, did some kayaking and loved reading, just meant there wasn't really that much time left for any other sport.
Anyway, our hockey umpire association regularly organised social evenings and invited umpires/refs from other sports to talk about their experiences. One night, this cricket umpire was there and he brought 2 players.
Before he started talking, he first asked the players' permission to talk. Weird, but in a way it illustrated how we only answer questions, rather than volunteer decisions like other umpires/refs do. It intrigued me, I started paying more attention to the sport, and when I stopped umpiring at national level in hockey, I decided to take up cricket umpiring.
A friend of my then boyfriend introduced me to her dad, a senior umpire in Netherlands, but also told me that I should actually start playing and the team she played in would be perfect!
Little did I know then that her team, like so many other women's teams, loved getting a few extra souls as they were so often short. Before I did the umpiring course, I had played 3 matches of which 2 were rained off but I was hooked.
Have you played cricket?
Yes, still do - badly. I used to be a half decent bat, opened for my team, but with all the umpiring, scoring and coaching I do these days, there's no time for nets/practice. I love wicket keeping though and got my first run in Open Cricket this year, and a catch in the same match at mid wicket.
My selection is basically on the basis that I have a car, can umpire, score, field and if necessary hold a bat LOL
And you are you a hockey ref too?
Yes, have been umpiring for 35 years, 12 years at the top flights in Dutch national men's and women's hockey, 5 European youth tournaments and again, tutoring/developing both club and regional umpires.
Why Ireland Inge?
I needed a break, a friend convinced me to invest in a pub in Roundstone, Connemara as in Ireland I could also umpire and remain on the European Umpire panel. Three months after I arrived, the recession hit, I lost all my money but I just fell in love with the people and the country.
Unfortunately, it seems you need some money to live off, so in 2010 I decided to go to Dublin to try get a job rather than go back to Netherlands and restart my teaching career.
What sort of umpiring courses have you taken over the years?
In 2000 I took what is now called Level 1, started umpiring, took the ICC Europe version of the next ACU&S; course (this is now called Level 1A), and in 2005 I took the Overseas Exam.
In England and Ireland umpires could do the written exam and then an oral exam, but because I was 'overseas', I had to do the oral part in writing as well, without the benefit of people asking me questions to clarify, elaborate, etc.
It was a total of 4 hours of answering questions on Law and practical examples, for which I had done about 120 hours of studying, trying to memorize every single paragraph of all 42 laws. I passed and became a full Member of ACU&S.;
In 2009, during the winter in Connemara I took the Level 1 scorer course, and last year I passed the Level 2 scorer course. And I was trained as tutor for both scorers and umpires - to Level 2.
Did you start umpiring womenís or menís cricket? An which do you prefer?
I started umpiring men's matches, mainly because the women played on Saturdays and if I wasn't umpiring I was playing myself. In 2003 I umpired at the Qualifier for the Women's World Cup, held in Netherlands, and I really enjoyed that tournament. I'm all for having good umpires at women's matches, as it is one of the ways of improving the standard of cricket, so if I can, I will always make myself available for women's matches.
Have you come across any sexist remarks while being in charge of a menís game?
The guys in cricket always looked me up and down and there was always more of an attitude towards me - not just a new face, but also 'what do women know about cricket in the first place'. I don't remember any sexist remarks, although I did once react to a 'Fu&* Me' (misfield at long off) by a bowler with 'no, not today'. Yer man just looked at me but did swallow a lot more F than before in that match.
And on one occasion I should have known better than to advise a captain that 'F' was a verb and we didn't do it on the field... needless to say, the captain turned around and answered 'yeah, Inge, but you'd like it'.... both incidents in Holland by the way, where people watch a lot of American sitcoms and think F & S are normal words.
What techniques do you use to keep yourself alert?
I always have something to eat - sweets normally, jelly beans are perfect, but I'm a bad eater, so very often I'll rob a few biscuits at tea to make sure I have something in the second innings. Other than that, I try to make eye contact with my colleague just about every ball when the ball is dead or in the process of following what happens in the field. It's just a good habit I believe, as you can then also confirm a few things on the go, such as ball hit pad/bat, where is the batter taking guard (as in how much in front of the popping crease is he), that type of thing.
What problems have you encountered while umpiring?
Going to the 'correct' end at bowler's end can sometimes be a bit dangerous; as umpires you need to be able to see whether the wicket is correctly broken, so you want to be in a position where you can see the bowler take the ball and then hit the stumps, which basically means you 'follow' the ball.
Sometimes, however, you might be crossing the ball's path and if you are used to guys throwing in hoping to get close to the stumps and all of a sudden umpire a Division 1 match where the pro is a South African who is trained at aiming for the bottom of the stumps, you need to be really quick if you don't want to have to dive and get hit in the back - needless to say this actually happened to me in my first Division 1 match in Netherlands.
How do you react to criticism?
I actually hate it when someone says 'people don't like....' Usually 'people' is actually the person telling you this but they're hiding behind a general remark. To me, criticism needs to be specific and aimed at development: if someone thinks I do something incorrectly, or made the wrong decision, tell me how to improve or why you think I was wrong. That way, I can store that and in another match not make the same mistake, or tell you why I made the decision I made.
Tell me about a difficult experience youíve had while umpiring?
My first match I gave OUT - run out to the captain of the home team in the first innings. He was out by a yard and a half, but I wasn't 'square' with the popping crease and he didn't like that. He opened the bowling my end and after about 3 or 4 balls appealed loudly and in an intimidating manner, clearly intent on trying to test me.
I had had the same treatment in hockey before, so all I did was stand still hoping he wouldn't see I was actually shaking inside. In the next couple of matches, because of my hockey experience, I knew something was wrong but nobody told me anything, so I couldn't improve and I decided it was my lack of cricket experience so I really felt like a cheat.
Then after my 5th match, the coach of the away side, literally sat me down and started explaining how he had profited from my lack of experience. We talked cricket, decisions, positioning, the lot, for about an hour. After that match I knew what to work on and started improving and getting more confident. Faiek is still a facebook friend and I've told him a couple of times that it's his fault I'm still around ;)
Is there different styles of umpiring? Like Billy Bowdenís 6 and 4 signal?
Yes, I guess you can't hide personality if you're on the field for 7 hours. And that's good, it would be awful if all umpires would be the same. Then again, we're servants of the game, and I believe things like Billy's signals attract attention towards the umpire, which shouldn't happen. You can have your own signals, but don't go overboard.
You can have a quiet word if something happens or someone threatens to cross that 'spirit of the game' line, but don't comment on performances - or lack thereof - even if you mean to make a joke in reaction to endless appeals.
Making jokes is the hardest thing in the world by the way, what I find funny, might be insulting to someone else. For instance, I'm not the most extrovert person around and it takes me a while to get my feet and open up, while others are much more easy-going, which means at the start of my career as an umpire, or when I started umpiring in Ireland, I might have appeared a bit mechanical or robot-like for lack of a better word. And now, I'm sure, most players just consider me the bad weed that keeps coming back LOL.
Who was your favourite umpire?
I've had the honour and pleasure of being an umpire liaison officer in Amsterdam in 2004. David Shepherd, Jeremy Lions and Steve Bucknor were there to umpire Australia, India and Pakistan in a triangular warm-up tournament before one of the first Champions Trophies. David was truly a gentleman and great to talk to - on the free weekend during the 12 days they were in Amsterdam, I made my debut in Division 1 and David and Jeremy both just told me to be myself and enjoy the new challenge. If either would have been Irish, I'm sure they would have said 'aw gowan, you'll be grand'.
What do you like and dislike about umpiring?
I enjoy the fact that I'm close to the game and somehow involved and at a high level. There's nothing really that I don't like about umpiring. Of course there are always moments where you think 'why did I ever get up this morning', matches where you need to report people because they didn't keep the head and lose it, or when the weather is iffy and circumstances are slowly deteriorating, which means you and your colleague know that things might get difficult as Irish mist makes deciding when to stop the match a challenge.
So it's not 'dislike' but being challenged I guess, and that's when you learn. I promised myself in hockey that I'd stop when I stopped liking umpiring, and I did. I'll do the same in cricket.
What would you say are your strong points?
I don't shy away from responsibilities, I am ambitious and critical. I am a good tutor and have learned to read the game. At the same time, these are also my challenges - I easily take things too seriously and forget to see the funny side of things or forget to relax.
Where would be your favourite ground?
Hmm, hard to answer. I think as an umpire you take more things in consideration than what I might think of grounds as a player. Leinster Senior Cup at the Hills means fresh scones, brilliant pasta and if the weather plays nicely, a good deck, so all the makings of a great day.
A warm day in Trinity means lots of people on the banks. A day in Galway is great, the Mardyke is gorgeous, in Netherlands, HCC in the Hague is picture perfect, VRA in Amsterdam is great, the 2nd square in Deventer was always one of the best squares in the country and the guys that run the club are former classmates, I can go on for hours.
Is there anybody in particular you like umpiring with?
There are quite a few colleagues in that category, but in July I will spend a few days in Netherlands and I'll umpire with one of my old buddies, the guy who taught my first umpiring course and one of 2 who convinced me I could do the Overseas Exam, and I'm really looking forward to that!
What is the biggest game you have umpired in?
Again, different matches spring to mind, but a very special one for me was the Test Match between Netherlands and South Africa (women's). Not a very good one from a cricket perspective, but it was my first ever multi-day match.
What would be the icing on the cake? Umpiring at Lords?
Yes, please! On the other hand, umpiring a match between England and Australia women would be nice wherever ;)
Do you think the standard of umpiring in this country is high?
Yes, I think we have a good general standard and a number of umpires of a very good standard, but we can't stop there. We need to keep developing and aiming higher. If umpires don't perform at the higher divisions or interprovincial levels, it means eventually players and the playing standards can't develop further.
If we want to play test level, we need to use the experienced umpires to help train the younger ones so that in 5 years' time, they can take over and develop with the game.
What can be done to attract more volunteers to umpire?
Getting people to umpire 5-10 overs is difficult enough for some teams - it's always the same few guys who end up doing the book or umpiring. It would be great to get a few experienced players, when they think of retiring, to do the course and start umpiring. Changing from doing 5-10 overs to doing 100 overs on a day is not easy, however, and after having played a good few years, I'm sure there are partners, children and other hobbies that need some attention.
I'm sure you'd have expected me to use the 'respect' angle here, and yes, I sometimes feel players have no respect for the role of the umpires and that might even play a part in them not taking up the proverbial coat after retirement - why would you want to be treated like that?
I would sometimes wish a disciplinary panel - club or Leinster - would say 2 matches suspension, to be spent umpiring. Don't think that that would help, nor would it be fair on other players, however nice it sounds. All we can do is promote the courses, spread the word and knowledge of the Laws, and hope people get to enjoy umpiring, especially younger people. Then, when they're ready, get them involved in umpiring at other clubs as a neutral umpire and build from there.
Why donít more women umpire? Is it hard to break into?
Most of us are social animals and don't like to be in the hot seat, especially not for 7 hours. Umpiring men's matches brings extra pressure, partly because there are so few female umpires, partly because some of the guys just feel uncomfortable if a woman is 'in charge'. Every starting umpire gets tested, I still feel that sometimes as a woman you need to prove yourself as a person first before you can start proving yourself as an umpire.
When I started, I got asked did I play cricket and, thanks to my friend, I could truthfully say I did - nobody asked me how long I had been playing, just did I play. I've yet to come across a captain or player asking the same thing of a guy, even if they wouldn't have seen him play. Sorry for the rant, can't help myself sometimes.
Anyway, back to the subject. Management, umpiring, decision making, are all roles I think women would do well in, but in a male environment you stand out and cricket happens to take all day. It's not easy on guys, so it wouldn't be easy on women either.
Why are we shortening the game for the girls? Why is it hard for clubs to field a side in the Pilkington Plate? If you don't want to play 80 overs every week, why would you decide to umpire 100 overs every week?
I still believe deciding to start umpiring was a great decision for me - I love the game and this way I'm close to all the action and even if not all matches are easy, it still is the best seat in the house!
Do you have any advice for people trying or thinking of getting into umpiring?
I would say try it for 10 matches and then decide - it's the same with batting and bowling, you don't expect a starter to use the middle of the bat 100% of the time or hit the target every single ball, it's something you develop.
Has the new pink ball made life easier for you?
I think the pink ball is brilliant for evening matches - you can play on for longer because light isn't bad as early as with the red ball. The ball seems to react differently from red or white balls, so players and umpires alike would need to get used to what it's doing, but yes, for the game I think it's a good development as it means clubs don't need to invest in black sight screens or groundsmen getting up a ladder to throw a black sheet over the white sight screen.
If you could add some extra rules to make the game faster or more exciting what would they be?
Hmm, interesting question! Maybe bonus points for risky shots like reversed sweep, or bonus points for finishing early - the way we have it now, if you bowl out the opposition double quick time, you get punished with a 10-minute turnaround.
Getting your eye in, then you get tea and after 30 minutes of sandwiches, you need to start over again. If tea is ready, have tea and give the fielding side a couple of bonus points! I think getting rid of the 'double over penalty' in Leinster, for slow bowling, was a great decision.
There were a number of umpires who said we have nothing to speed the game up, what's a few extra runs to a fielding side, but they forget that we can issue penalty runs if a captain is deliberately slowing down the game.
But why punish only rather than reward? And I often think powerplays are a bit silly, as in the 50-over format so many overs are being bowled with only 2 or 3 guys outside the ring anyway. Probably less so in Division 1 than in Divisions 3 and 4, but still. On the other hand, I love time cricket and even though the likes of Morgan started playing their T20 shots there as well, I believe that format should remain fairly untouched as it's such a great tactical and mental game. Let T20 spice up the world, to bowl-out competitions in the intervals, but let's also develop other skill sets for the longer format.
Is there any rule that you hate?
That double over penalty: if you're 2 overs slow, you get a 4-over penalty. Makes no sense to me and is a nightmare in the 2nd innings. And there is one more: in division 5 and 6, once you start a match, you can't reduce. I know that in the past, these divisions weren't fully covered by neutral umpires, but now 99.9% of these matches are umpired by LCUSA umpires and every single one of them can do divide by 5, so once it rains, reduce overs for every 5 minutes you spend watching the rain come down. It would help get more cricket in.
How many cricket rules are there actually? And do you know every single one?
42 Laws, with a good few subclauses. And I'd say I know all of them, but in our Level 2 course we actually challenge candidates to use 'Law 43' or common sense and combine laws, which I think is even more important.
When something happens that doesn't fit one law, if you do know most of them, you can get to a logical conclusion. And then after the match, you get the blue book out and look it up. If it ain't there, send an email to the MCC Laws committee to see if they would come to the same solution - and you might be responsible for a new subclause!
The umpires outfit, could they jazz it up? and what would you do if they could?
For 1 season I umpired in a skirt. Great for me, or rather the legs saw some sunshine, but much like Billy Bowden's signals, it drew attention I didn't need. Shirts need to be sensible and we're not there for the fashion awards. Besides, the polo shirt to some is already a massive step away from the shirt and tie (and yes, when I started in Netherlands, I did wear the coat, shirt and tie). But we could do away with the dark blue shirts - only men think of black trousers and blue shirts as a combination! Why not a brighter blue or some other strong colour?
What other hobbies do you enjoy?
I like reading, I used to have a kayak and spend hours on the water, speed skating or even better, doing a 30-50 km tour on natural ice, and, of course, hockey. Whatís next Inge? What I would love to do is help develop courses and modules/workshops and train new tutors - we started doing the latter last year, but if we want to spread the 'gospel', we need more people who can deliver courses.
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