Test cricket um­pire Evan Watkin talks to about giv­ing Brian Lara out, be­ing the reg­is­trar of elec­tors and Billy Bow­den’s an­tics.

Kris Dando

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

Test cricket um­pire Evan Watkin talks about giv­ing Brian Lara out, be­ing the reg­is­trar of elec­tors and Billy Bow­den’s an­tics.

What takes up your time these days?

I’m com­pil­ing sta­tis­tics on women’s cricket in New Zealand for crick­etarchive.com. I thought it was some­thing that might while away some time, and now I’ve got snowed un­der with it. I have found a score­book from the first ex­am­ple of women’s in­ter­provin­cial cricket in the coun­try, in 1932-33.

What is it about cricket sta­tis­tics you find so fas­ci­nat­ing?

I have a pas­sion for the game, al­ways have, and sta­tis­tics, num­bers and records are an es­sen­tial part of the sport.

How much time does your re­search take up?

All day, ev­ery day. The in­ter­net has been great for con­tact­ing peo­ple and as­so­ci­a­tions about score­books, names, games and records. I also use Pa­pers Past and three out of four Satur­days a month I go to the Na­tional Li­brary.

How long were you an um­pire?

I was one year short of 25 years at first-class level, from 1989 to 2013. Where do you come from? I was born in Te Aroha, in the Thames Val­ley, where the fam­ily had a dairy farm. I was there till I was 10, but nei­ther my brother or I were go­ing to go into farm­ing, so we moved to Katikati, then Tau­ranga. I played cricket with all the five Bracewell boys at dif­fer­ent times.

What did you do af­ter leav­ing school?

I be­came a post of­fice clerk. When it came time to ap­ply for more se­nior po­si­tions, you just went for ev­ery­thing go­ing in all parts of the coun­try. I was told I was go­ing to Welling­ton, but wasn’t that keen to come down this way at 19. I re­mem­ber be­ing on the side­lines for a rugby match in 1971, when the Bri­tish Lions were play­ing Welling­ton, and the Lions were thrash­ing them. We were cheer­ing be­cause we loved hear­ing the cap­i­tal was get­ting well beaten.

Did work bring you to Porirua?

Yes. I was pro­moted to man­age the post­mas­ter’s of­fice here and be­came reg­is­trar of elec­tors in 1980. We’ve lived in Whitby for 34 years.

Be­ing reg­is­trar of elec­tors must have been a busy role?

It was and in the 1980s there was a lot of elec­toral re­form, with the post of­fice tak­ing over the elec­toral rolls, which were a sham­bles be­fore 1980. The peak times of course were at elec­tions, which were usu­ally held be­fore cricket sea­son any­way.

Did you play cricket in Welling­ton?

I was board­ing in New­town, and turned up to try out for the Kil­birnie club. Back in Tau­ranga, there were one or two rep play­ers in the club, but at Kil­birnie there were six in the first team with the likes of Don Neely, Barry Sin­clair and Richard Collinge. I was over­awed to be around those guys. I got my shot in the first team when Collinge was called up for tests against the West Indies.

How far did you go as a player?

I was a de­cent swing bowler, but only ever a club player. I had half a sea­son in Kil­birnie first team and then played for Nae­nae, where I got to know Chats [Ewen Chat­field], and Up­per Hutt, where I lived. Your best day with the ball? We played Mid­land St Pat’s on the Basin Re­serve in De­cem­ber 1971 and at lunch they were some­thing like 140-2. Collinge, Mike Coles and Bruce Smith, all first-class play­ers, all had fig­ures like 0-40 and I had 2-13. I wish I’d had the nerve to take a photo of that score­board.

When did um­pir­ing come along?

I played un­til I was about 30. At Maid­stone Park one day I was hit on the head by Ewen Chat­field. That led me to giv­ing away play­ing and tak­ing up um­pir­ing.

When did you make the A panel for first-class um­pires?

I had two sea­sons on the B panel and the sea­son 1989-90 was my first year on the A panel and De­cem­ber 8 was the first game. I re­mem­ber in my first game hav­ing words with Chris Pringle for run­ning on the pitch. It was bla­tant.

How hard was it to bal­ance work with fam­ily and um­pir­ing?

There was a bit of travel and it wasn’t easy be­ing away from fam­ily. We got about $75 for ev­ery day we um­pired, so we weren’t be­com­ing rich and there were no cen­tral con­tracts or re­tain­ers.

Your high­light um­pire?

My three test matches. I stood in the two Box­ing Day tests at the Basin Re­serve [1998 v In­dia, 1999 v West Indies] and was at square leg when Si­mon Doull took those wick­ets in the first hour against In­dia. Matthew Bell was on de­but and he stood next to me and we wished each other good luck. My third test was in Napier in 2009, when Billy Doc­trove fell ill and I was third um­pire, so I re­placed him on the field. That was the test Jesse Ry­der got 201.

Would you like to have of­fi­ci­ated in more tests?

Ab­so­lutely. Billy [Bow­den] was around, so I didn’t get a look in on the in­ter­na­tional panel. It came down to tim­ing and luck. I was the No 2 in the coun­try for a while and am thank­ful I got the chance.

What do you think of Bow­den’s an­tics as an um­pire?

He was not like that when he started. But Danny Mor­ri­son had a ben­e­fit match in Auck­land in 1997, Sky Sport were show­ing it and it was that Max cricket for­mat. Billy told me he prac­tised his sig­nals in the mir­ror. It wasn’t


an some­thing I was a fan of.

How many first-class games did you um­pire?

I got to 135, the most in New Zealand do­mes­tic cricket.

What do you think of the new tech­nol­ogy like Snicko, Hawk-Eye and Hot Spot?

It takes the pres­sure off um­pires. When I was um­pir­ing for matches on TV we had re­plays to check run outs and bound­aries. Tech­nol­ogy is good in most re­spects ex­cept for Hawk-Eye and the way it tracks the ball af­ter hit­ting the bats­man. It’s of­ten not what would have hap­pened.

Could the re­view sys­tem have helped you with any big de­ci­sions?

I gave Brian Lara out caught be­hind off Dion Nash in the Box­ing Day test in 1999. Nash was con­vinced, there was a big sound and [wick­et­keeper Adam] Parore caught it in front of Flem­ing at first slip, so there was ob­vi­ous de­vi­a­tion. Lara shook his head straight away, but I gave him out. He wasn’t happy. Nash later told me that Flem­ing and the other slips didn’t think Lara had hit it. I later dis­cov­ered that the Windies bowler Reon King had made a hole or a hol­low, right where Lara swung at Nash’s de­liv­ery. He may have hit that hole. In 2015, Lara would’ve chal­lenged my call and may have been given not out. Any other sports you en­joy? I love all the ma­jors in ten­nis and golf. I re­ally en­joyed the drama of the US Open last week, which Jor­dan Speith won. What an in­cred­i­ble golf course. Once a week I’m down at Porirua School for the Tawa Ta­ble Ten­nis Club for our club night. I en­joy watch­ing my grand­sons play­ing cricket, of course. Do you still um­pire? I’m re­strict­ing my­self to premier youth grade and women’s cricket now. I’ve pulled out of men’s club cricket af­ter I re­ported a player for dis­sent in Jan­uary and he was found not guilty, which was ridicu­lous.


Um­pire Evan Watkin takes con­trol of a State Shield match at the Basin Re­serve, in 2004.

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