UAE umpire Iftikhar Ali wants more people to take up umpiring and says he wants on to pass the experience and knowledge he has to other umpires here. Image Credit: Courtesy: Sharjah Cricket Council

Dubai: The stoppage of cricket activities has hit the umpiring fraternity hard in the UAE, and many of them are battling it out to rise above the situation. Not only have their earnings from officiating matches have come to an end, but they are also concerned about losing touch with the rules of the game.

Iftikhar Ali, the UAE’s leading umpire and a member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Umpires panel, believes that like cricketers who need to be fit for matches, umpires too must maintain fitness during these days of staying at home. He has urged everyone not to lose the ability to interpret the laws of the game according to the match situation.

Speaking to Gulf News, Ali said: “We are all trying our best to tackle this unprecedented situation. Thanks to ICC’s Umpire’s Coach Peter Manuel who has been regularly engaging us with a quiz on rules of the game. Every question is meant to keep us all sharp. I make sure that I share it with umpires here so that everyone gets the benefit.”

Ali, who travels to many countries to officiate matches and rubs shoulders with the best umpires in the world, has often conducted classes to groom those interested in umpiring and become good umpires. “I have enjoyed teaching umpires and always made sure to discuss the laws with them. It is very important to conduct classes not only for beginners but also as refresher courses for the others, both at the start of a season and mid-season so that they remain well versed with the laws of the game,” he noted.

Since no umpiring classes can be held these days, he encourages all umpires to keep discussing the laws of the game. “If umpires discuss the laws regularly, only then can flaws be identified and rectified, if needed. Umpires need to get updated constantly for them to progress,” he added.

Ali believes that all those who take up umpiring are those who love the game and that is why they stand and officiate for hours under the blazing sun. Hence they need to be protected too, he says. “It is unfortunate that we do not have an umpires association here, but umpires need support. Many of the umpires are jobless now and we all have written to the Sharjah Cricket Council to provide some support during this difficult period,” pointed out Ali, who is employed with the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA).

Although he is in his sixties, he ensures to maintain his fitness regularly. “To be a good umpire one must be physically fit. Only then can he be mentally alert as well. These are difficult times but there are many ways one can work out at home and stay healthy,” remarked Ali.