Umpiring New Zealand v Australia
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenn Schache is a legendary umpire and scorer from Northern Districts, New Zealand who currently resides in Melbourne, Australia. He officiated as an umpire in New Zealand from 2001-2012, officiating numerous club matches in the Counties Manukau Region and 35 district association games in the Northern Districts Region. Further, he officiated 2 Northern Districts A matches. He also officiated three National Club Championships in Auckland.
He was a scorer in New Zealand from 1993-1998, scoring 50 district association games in Norther Districts Region, including one tour game (Northern Districts v England) in 1997. The highlight of his scoring career, was a test as the press scorer in 1997 in the test match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. In 1999, he was the scorer in the one day international in the match between New Zealand and India. He is still providing statistics for the Counties Manuka District Association and is currently working on a project with Evan Watkin (former New Zealand umpire) to get all New Zealand district association scorecards online.
In Melbourne, he has officiated 112 matches in Victoria Premier Cricket and holds heritage number 516. He has officiated 3 National Inclusion Championships and one National Blind Cricket Championship. He is a current committee member of the Victoria Cricket Association Umpires and Scorers Association (VCAUSA). Proudly, he has participated in three Crockett Shield matches (VCAUSA v SACUSA) winning two matches.
His off field contribution to cricket has been equally impressive, recognised for the following awards:
2016 - Counties Manukau Cricket Association Service award; 2017 - Service to cricket award Northern Districts Cricket;
2019 - Life member of the Counties Manukau Cricket Association
When Phil asked me to write this piece, my mind immediately went back to when I met him. This momentous meeting of the minds occurred in April of 2011 at Cornwall Park in Auckland.
Cornwall Park is one of the many beautifully scenic grounds around New Zealand. It is nestled at the base of the volcano Maungakiekie or One Tree Hill. The park is home (funnily enough) to the Cornwall Cricket Club which, as some of you know, holds the annual NZ National Cricket Club Championships.
This week-long tournament brings the best six clubs from around Aotearoa to Cornwall Park, one club from each major association. Cricket Victoria has been sending umpires to this tournament on exchange for many years. I had been coming up the road from my base in Counties Manukau to participate for a few years, as had my colleague Ash Mehtora.
The first time I met Phil it was raining, which is certainly not unusual for this time of year in Auckland. We got to discussing the tournament and Phil asked me if grounds in NZ were always like this. I think the picture above highlights what he meant. The umpire from the top game is at wide mid off for the bottom game! Certainly, in this tournament you must keep an eye and an ear on the action behind you!
The whole cricket ground is about 10 acres in size and was the site of an olive grove until the 1950’s. As the diagram below shows, the cricket club fit three senior pitches and 18 junior pitches into this area. This makes for some big hitting during the club champs, especially if the game is on the 3rd senior pitch. The straight boundary at the bottom end is very short and a lot of time is spent fetching the ball from the neighbouring hospital’s car park! I remember one year the McCullum brothers having an absolute feast playing for Green Island.
The answer to Phil’s question is “Yes”, most grounds in NZ try to fit two or three pitches in. This highlights one of the biggest differences I have found between cricket in NZ and Melbourne – the size & condition of the grounds.
We are extremely fortunate here in Melbourne that most Premier Cricket grounds are dedicated to cricket and host one game per oval. In my first season here in 2012 was spent marvelling at the standard of the pitches, grounds and club rooms. Grounds like Dandenong, Geelong, Northcote and Ringwood were superb and steeped in history. A newer ground was Casey Fields where the ovals were immaculate. All firsts & seconds grounds have dedicated staff that ensure the standard is kept very high.
Back home in Counties Manukau, just south of Auckland, the story had been a lot different. It is a mostly country based area and, of the 6 Premier clubs, only one had a dedicated cricket oval. The others shared facilities with the winter codes of rugby or soccer. Most of the time, this meant an uneven outfield. Most first grounds would have decent size boundaries but there was usually a game on next to it. The club rooms and changing facilities were of differing standards too but were structured for the winter codes. Ground staff are council employed and cover multiple grounds which can lead to under prepared pitches.
A big difference between the two counties, especially early in the season, is the weather. October is wet in both, but usually worse in NZ. The first 3 or 4 rounds are limited over games played on artificial pitches, if they go ahead at all. Grass pitches are not played on until November. Later in the season, the hottest us Kiwis have to handle is 28-30 rather than 40-42 in Melbourne. I had never experienced anything like the cool change that swept across Camberwell and dropped the temperature by 10 degrees in half an hour!
As there were only a few umpires in our region, we often umpired on our own – even at Premier level. I know sub-association umpires here must do the same so know how tiring that can be. We umpires carried our own stumps to games so what a pleasure it is not to have to carry a golf bag full of stumps around!
Only having 6 premier teams means you know everyone, and they know you! You are umpiring guys who you played with and against. This presents a challenge to not relax too much and stick to your guns when needed. It can be a good thing too, when you get to know how the players react to varying situations. Having many more players in Melbourne means most of us will only umpire the same team 2 or 3 times a year rather than 2 or 3 times a month!
There are many differences, yes, but also many similarities. Of course, cricket is cricket, the laws are the laws and players are still players. They will dispute decisions they don’t like regardless of the accuracy of the decisions. Captains will always mark you down if you give them out LBW :-). My first umpiring coach would always say that 20 years on, you could tell who won the game by the umpiring report. There is a lot more structure in Premier Cricket around discipline, and more support for the umpires, but behaviour is about the same in both countries – mostly good!
The camaraderie of umpiring is certainly the same. As umpires, we always enjoy socialising with other umpires. Indeed, this can be the best way to talk about what works and what doesn’t in certain situations. Top class umpires are, for the most part, always willing to share their experiences with less experienced colleagues. Counties Manukau enjoys a very good name in umpiring, with several first-class umpires and a couple of test umpires from the area. Tony Hill was not far off a test umpire when I started umpiring and he gave all of us very good advice over the years. It was great a few years ago to meet him in Melbourne as he stood in a Boxing Day test.
I have been lucky to be involved in two great tournaments that really exemplify the camaraderie. In NZ, there is a limited overs tournament for the six Northern Districts district associations. Six or seven umpires from the ND area spent three days together. I got to stand with first class and test umpires, including Steve Dunne, who, of course, was at the other end when Darrell Hair took a dislike to Muttiah’s bowling action. Many thoughts and opinions were swapped in post-match reviews and continued over dinner later in the evening. Lots of first class players participate in this tournament so the standard is always high.
Over in Geelong, I have been privileged to be involved at the National Inclusion champs. Umpiring blind, deaf and ID players brings a new challenge, one which is great to share with several other umps living in the same facility for a week. We have had lots of lively discussions about playing conditions, Big Bash cricket, what shirts we are wearing and wine & food!! Having first class umpires there is invaluable to all of us, especially the less experienced ones.
In summary, there will always be similarities and differences wherever this great game of ours is played. I feel privileged to have been fortunate to stand in the games I have with the colleagues that I have stood with. From Whangarei to Gisborne, from Geelong to Sale and a lot of places in between, cricket has always been the winner!!!