Aleem Dar
Aleem Dar watches as he is set to break Steve Bucknor's record of most Tests as an umpire on day one of the first Test cricket match between Australia and New Zealand at the Perth Stadium in Perth on December 12, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Pakistan cricket may have been struggling for years to get sufficient international matches but the irony is an umpire from their country has broken the world record for officiating in the maximum number of Test matches. 
Aleem Dar, hailed as one of the finest active umpires on the international circuit, last week erased West Indies umpire Steve Bucknor’s record of officiating in 128 matches.

The first Test match between Australia and New Zealand at Perth was Dar’s 129th Test match.

“This is one milestone I had never thought of when I began my umpiring career. It is a truly amazing feeling and a high point of my life,” an overwhelmed Dar said soon after overtaking Bucknor.

Now 51, Dar started the journey when he officiated in his first One-day International match in 2000. So impressive was his decision making that he graduated to the ICC panel within two years. His calm and cool approach has won him respect in the players’ community and he even got compared to umpire Simon Taufel, who had bagged the ICC Umpire of the Year award from 2004 to 2008.

Dar did not win fans by being demonstrative while giving decisions but through his assured manner in giving decisions. He signals boundary with an attractive wave of his hand and always gave a nod before declaring a batsman out.

Dar’s advantage was that he played first class cricket in Pakistan before taking up umpiring — he had played in 17 first class matches and represented teams like Allied Bank, Gujranwala Cricket Association, Lahore, Pakistan Railways as a right-hand batsman and leg-spinner.

Dar was lauded for his accuracy during the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup when all the 15 Umpires Decision Review System appeals against him were struck down. After bagging the David Shepherd trophy for the Umpire of the Year for three consecutive years at the ICC Awards ceremony in London that year, he remarked: “It is a great honour and I am thankful to everyone at the ICC and my colleagues on the elite panel of ICC umpires.”

A disciplined individual, Dar once revealed that he makes sure to sleep eight hours and also works out at the gym to be fit. He also plays table tennis regularly as he believes it is good for the eyes.

Dar has often been mentioned among the 10 best umpires in the game today. Simon Taufel, who retired at the age of 41 deciding to spend more time with his family, was hailed the best. He was followed by Dickie Bird, who retired after a 23-year-old career in 1996. David Shepherd retired from umpiring in 2005 and succumbed to lung cancer in 2009 at the age of 68. Bucknor was a model of consistency till towards the close of his career, where he made many a wrong calls in 2007-08.

Like many aspiring umpires, Dar used to idolise Bucknor in his younger days. “Steve Bucknor was my idol and it is only sinking in now that I will have officiated in more Test matches than him. In the nearly two decades of my international career, I have had the good fortune of watching some memorable matches and achievements — like Brian Lara’s Test knock of 400 not out and South Africa’s epic chase of Australia’s score of 434 in an ODI in Johannesburg in 2006.”

Back in Pakistan, fans mob him for his autograph like the cricketers. In almost every interviews, he thanks his family for their sacrifice as he is away from home for nearly eight months in a year. Dar feels that as a youngster, he had aimed to be a Test cricketer but feels that by the grace of God, he quickly clinched a place among the best.

After officiating in his first ODI in 2000, he was picked to officiate in the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup. Dar considers his umpiring debut as memorable. “My first game as a umpire was Sri Lanka versus Pakistan in Gujranwala and luckily for me, it was my hometown too. My first Test match was in Dhaka when I officiated in the Bangladesh versus England match,” he had said.

Apart from 129 Tests, Dar has also officiated in 207 ODIs and 46 T20 Internationals and may go on to set many more new marks as an umpire.

Who is Aleem Dar?

Aleem Dar was born in Jhang, Punjab (Pakistan) on June, 1968.

He played in 17 first class matches in Pakistan before becoming an umpire.

At the age of 32, he made his debut as an international umpire in 2000 to officiate in a Pakistan versus Sri Lanka one-dayer at Gujranwala. He has officiated in 207 ODIs so far.

He made his debut as a Test umpire in 2003. He has officiated in 129 matches to break Steve Bucknor record for maximum Tests matches as an umpire.

He also officiated in 46 T20 Internationals.