ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claire Polosak is a member of the ICC Development Panel. She is the first female to officiate a men's one day international, when she stood in the match between Namibia and Oman in April 2019. Internationally, she has officiated 17 women's one day internationals and 33 women's T20 internationals. Domestically, in October 2017 in the match between NSW and CA XI she became the first female to officiate an Australian domestic List A match, having officiated 3 in total. She has officiated a further 20 women's T20 domestic matches and 13 men's domestic T20 matches as the 3rd umpire.
Claire has also stood in the following ICC tournaments:
ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifies | Bangkok | November – December 2015
ICC Women’s T20 World Cup | India | March 2016
ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifies | Sri Lanka | February 2017
ICC Women’s World Cup | United Kingdom | June – July 2017
ICC women’s T20 World Cup Qualifies | Netherlands | July 2018
ICC Women’s T20 World Cup | West Indies | November 2018
ICC World Cricket League Division Two (Men) | Namibia | April 2019
ICC Under 19 World Cup Qualifies (Men) | Japan | June 2019
ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifies | Scotland | August – September 2019
ICC Women’s T20 World Cup | Australia | March 2020
Claire's contribution off field is equally impressive in her role as Umpire Educator/ Female Umpire Engagement with Cricket New South Wales, where she is fortunate to be working with the rest of the umpiring team at Cricket New South Wales to increase the numbers of females taking up the best seat in the middle. In NSW in 2019/20, there were 286 umpiring appointments filled by females, 152 of these were in Premier Cricket.
Teamwork. That elusive beast that ensures sports officials a smoother ride. Like most aspects to umpiring and officiating, work you put in before the game starts ensures that the game will (hopefully) be more straightforward to manage.
Some people are naturally more inclined to be effective team members, teamwork is often an invisible aspect to our own personality and character. Like anything else in life, teamwork is a skill that can be improved through consistent practice and mindfulness.
For me, the first aspect of teamwork is to check your ego at the door. The old saying, of “There is no ‘I’ in team” is so true when looking at the role of the sports official and how we go about our business. When you step out onto the field, you want to know that your partner has got your back no matter what happens. This leads to a deep, sometimes unsaid understanding that you will both do what you can to ensure you BOTH have a good day. In Cricket, fortunately under the Laws, we are meant to work with someone. While in some competitions, umpires officiate by themselves, there is no doubt that umpiring with another person should be much more effective than going it solo.
In umpiring, particularly Premier (Club) Cricket, teamwork starts well before you arrive at the ground. It is customary to phone your partner a couple of days before the match to discuss a variety of logistical arrangements for the weekend. Things like:
- Time of game
- Time of arrival
- The type of game (One Day, 2 day, T20) you will be involved with
- If you know of any particular characteristics of players in the team/s
- What shirt you are planning on wearing, both to the ground as well as on field.
- Anything else that may be relevant to the game, for example do you know of any sneaky carparking spots at the ground you are heading to.
While discussing the shirt you are planning on wearing to the ground and on field may appear both simple and also controlling, turning up to the ground in the same attire creates a strong first impression to the two teams playing the game, that there is indeed a third team there to participate for the day. You only get one first impression. While wearing the same shirt on field is a requirement of the game that you are involved in.
For me, Teamwork can then be split into different segments, depending on the time or aspect of the game. I have split them up below for more targeted discussion.
- If you arrive at the ground before your partner, do not go out to the middle of the ground before your partner gets there. Even if there is weather around. This is possibly one of the biggest faux pas in umpiring. Just do not do it. We are a team, we head out to the ground as a team. IF you are at the ground before your partner, and a member of the playing team say something about the condition of the ground, be polite, but firm. “Thanks for the information, I’ll have a look when _______ gets here”.
- Spend the time you have with your partner to discuss the Playing Conditions that are going to be used. This is the time where if either of you have a difference in understanding that you can check the book without the added stress of captains looking over your shoulder.
- Also spend time with your partner working through aspects of the day that will make both of your days better, these may include, but are not limited to:
o Any signals that you are planning on using during the game
o How do you show at square leg that the ball has hit the bat/ body/ missed everything?
o When will you be crossing/ not crossing for a L/R hand combination?
o When are you going to update the captain on their over rates during the game
o What are you going to talk to the captains about during the toss?
- After the toss with the captains, don’t forget the other members of the third team- the Scorers, particularly if you are lucky enough to have dedicated scorers, as opposed to players who are sharing the scoring duties. Scorers need to know who has won the toss and who is batting/ bowling. It could also be a good idea to also mention any of the breaks/ drinks in play there will be.
- Eye contact between the pair of you is incredibly important, and in many respects can prevent any trouble brewing. Eye contact between each delivery is important, and is crucial for communicating with your partner.
- If you provide a warning to either team (eg. Bowler in the protected area), make sure you pass that information on to not only the fielding captain, but also your partner as the warning applies to both ends- this is important information to share.
- Make sure you use the signals you agreed on before the game at the various times during the game.
- Never comment to a player about a decision your partner has made. This is never regarded well by either team. A deflection comment may help here “I’m not in the best position to see”
- In the interval I will often ask partners, particularly partners whom I have not stood with before/ very often, if there is anything we would like to do differently for the next session. This allows the opportunity for any changes to be made to ensure the following session of play is even better.
- Walk on, and off the field together. If there is any hospitality at the ground (lunch, tea for example) head to the canteen/ clubhouse together.
During Ground, Weather and Light (AKA GWL)
- As Cricket is played in Summer, we can go for multiple games, or even seasons when our games are not affected by bad weather. When there is bad weather it is time to really be a team and work together when assessing the ground and the suitability of play, always within the laws and playing conditions!
- When inspecting the conditions of the ground after rain, always do so together.
- When speaking to the captains about any concerns that you have with the ground, the changing parameters of the game, it is easy for the “more experienced” umpire to dominate the conversations with the captains. It may be useful to deliberately take it in turns in speaking with the captains.
- Before you do speak with the captains, working out a ‘script’ of the message that you are wanting to convey to the captain may assist you when speaking
- When the day or game is over, spend some time relaxing with your team member - you have (hopefully) just had a great day!
- This is a time to debrief with your partner about the day, have a casual chat about how the day went, what could be done differently and how you can both improve for next time.
- In some competitions there is a post match meeting between the captains, the umpires as well as a facilitator, this can be a valuable opportunity to receive feedback from the captains involved in the game. Listen respectfully to the feedback, no matter what you think about the feedback you are receiving.
- When providing feedback to your umpiring colleague, ensure that it is done respectfully and from the opinion of improving for both your partner and you. Remember the point about checking your ego at the door? I personally only share any feedback that I have, if I have been asked by my partner. I also make sure I share positive things they did throughout the day as well as anything constructive that I want to share as well.
For me, teamwork comes down to what sort of person I would want to spend the day with, and I do my best to stick to those values. You will always find other umpires who you don’t click with, and possibly wouldn’t spend any social time with, however, it is all about being professional at all levels of Cricket, to ensure you can both get the job done to the best of your ability.
What tips do you have for teamwork when umpiring?
What characteristics have you seen in other umpires that exhibit great teamwork?
Please leave your comments below.