She sits in a corner of the press box, occasionally scribbling into an oversized book. Colour pencils lie scattered on her desk. Her attention is on the cricket pitch, the focus never wavering. Blessy Rivin is no journalist; she’s the official scorer in Abu Dhabi.
A regular presence at the Zayed Cricket Stadium during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, Blessy could be the lone official woman cricket scorer in the UAE. There are woman scorers in cricket, but they are rare. And rarer in the UAE.
Scorers are a different breed. They pay attention to detail and are completely immersed in the game. The amount of data fed into the scoring books is so much and so minute that it takes immense concentration to keep track of the unfolding events on a cricket field.
Most scoring in cricket these days is done digitally, but manual scoring is still in demand. Technology can fail, power disruptions can happen, but a scorer cannot stop scoring so long as the game is in progress. That makes scorers like Blessy a permanent presence at cricket games.
It takes passion to keep scores. A passion for the game and numbers. Here’s where Blessy differs. Cricket wasn’t her passion; it was her husband Rivin Varghese’s passion. She was dragged away to the matches he was playing. At first, she didn’t know what a run was. Nor the difference between a four and a six.
All that has changed. Blessy is now well-versed in the game and its laws. She is a qualified umpire. But the problem is there aren’t many opportunities to officiate matches. There are more umpires and fewer scorers in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, Blessy loves the thrill of scoring.
“I feel proud at seeing my work. It’s all there in my handwriting. Every aspect of the game is entered into the scorebook. And you can get a complete picture by looking at it,” Blessy told Gulf News, adding that she prefers manual scoring to digital scoring. Ï love to enter the details into the book, rather than clicking the boxes in software or an app.
So how did Blessy start scoring cricket games? How did she get hooked to the game when she had no idea about it?
That happened in 2011 when Blessy and Rivin were living in Singapore. Hailing from Pandalam in Kerala, a South Indian state, Blessy and her husband moved there after Rivin joined Singapore Airlines.
“My husband was the captain of the office cricket team, and I used to accompany him to the matches. One day, when the scorer failed to show up, the team manager Manoj Patel asked to score the game, and he explained how to go about it. I loved it, and Patel’s encouragement helped. Even when the regular scorer turned up for the next match, I was also asked to score. And he was a big help, answering my incessant questions,” she said.
Patel was quick to notice Blessy’s enthusiasm and suggested that she undergo a certificate course. After she trained under the Asian Cricket Council scoring coach Subramanian Raghuraman, Blessy became a sought-after scorer. “The certificate helped. The Singapore Cricket Association started calling me to score their matches. Till then, I was scoring only for Singapore Airlines. Now, I got a chance to score more games,” she said, relating her experience in scoring for domestic teams and the national side. “My first international match was ACC’s Under-19 women championship in Singapore,” she added.
I feel proud at seeing my work. It’s all there in my handwriting. Every aspect of the game is entered into the scorebook. And you can get a complete picture by looking at it. Ï love to enter the details into the book, rather than clicking the boxes in software or an app.
Blessy moved to Abu Dhabi in 2015, when her husband joined Etihad Airlines. Etihad team manager Mohammad Zaheer introduced Blessy to the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, and she soon started scoring matches for them.
So, where does umpiring fit in? “Ï loved scoring but wanted to learn more about cricket. That led me to do a course in umpiring. On ADCC’s recommendation, I attended a Level 1 umpiring course in Sharjah [conducted by the Emirates Cricket Association]. But I’m yet to receive the certificate because it’s mandatory to officiate five matches before I get it. I have not been getting any umpiring opportunities, and the COVID situation hasn’t helped,” Blessy explained.
While awaiting umpiring opportunities, Blessy continued to score matches in Abu Dhabi. And that helped hone her skills. When English counties Somerset, Essex and Worcestershire played pre-season games in Abu Dhabi in 2019, Blessy met Alan Jones, the scorer. He was fascinated to see Blessy score the matches and shared several tips with her.
More international cricket came her way. She was the scorer at the Zayed Cricket Stadium for the 2018 Asia Cup. And now the biggest of all: the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
Blessy, a homemaker, no doubt is thrilled. “I was very happy to meet Brett Lee [former Australian fast bowler] and Dean Jones [the late Australian batsman]. They used to come to the press box during the Asia Cup,” she gushed like a true cricket fan.
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But Blessy has one regret. She scored the India-Afghanistan T20 World Cup game in Abu Dhabi on November 3. “I was thrilled to write the names of Indian players in the scoresheet. Some of them are big players. So I wanted to get the sheet autographed by the Indian team. But the COVID protocol didn’t allow that,” she said with a tinge of sadness.
Blessy, a mother of two, is not disappointed. “More opportunities will come if I continue to keep scoring. And I love this,” she said.
Who said cricket scoring can’t be fun. Ask Blessy.