Sharjah: Paul Baldwin, who officiated in the ICC Intercontinental Cup at the Sharjah cricket stadium, hails from Germany.
Just before stepping out for the match, a few players asked him: "Do people play cricket in Germany?" Baldwin's prompt answer shocked them. "We have 70 teams playing every weekend and are already in the world league division five."
Baldwin went on to impress everyone with his shrewd decision-making skills. "I was born in England. My parents were with the British forces and I moved to Germany when I was 17. I've never been to England since then," said the 34-year-old umpire who has also acted in two German movies.
How did he land up as an umpire? "I was the captain of my team, not because I was a good player, but as someone who used to do the rounds to make sure 11 players were on the bus at the right time. During matches, I also used to umpire. In fact, I once gave a decision which was disgusting," he revealed sheepishly.
"Ralf Myton, a Royal Army Forces' umpire's chief instructor, played in that match and he impressed upon me that I should never take to the field unless I attend an umpiring course."
"After the course, I enjoyed umpiring. My father used to umpire while in the UK and he too encouraged me. Then in 2001, I got the opportunity to officiate in the ICC Trophy and that's where I bumped into one of my umpiring heroes Darryl Hair. It was inspiring to meet him and learn more about the laws of the game," he recalled.
Baldwin has been so impressive that the ICC selected him to officiate in the upcoming Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia.
Is there a German term for umpiring? "Yes, of course. We call it Schiedsrichter," he said.
Baldwin has inspired many youngsters in Germany to take up umpiring.
"The German umpires and scorers body has trained over 130 umpires.
The recent course in Hamburg was attended by nearly 25 youngsters. Cricket is getting popular in Germany.
"Next week we have an under-17 girls tournament in Berlin. We are also in the process of developing our first turf wicket," revealed Baldwin, whose dream is to officiate in a Test match.