The legendary English umpire, Harold Dennis Bird, better known as Dickie, officiated in 66 Tests and 69 ODIs between 1973 and 1996. Eighty six years old now, Dickie still visits Headingley in Leeds to watch cricket.
Dickie Bird’s last stint as an international umpire was at Lord’s, London, in the second Test (June 20-24) of the India-England series in 1996. Incidentally, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid made their debuts in the Test, with Ganguly scoring a hundred and Dravid falling for 95.
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“I am following all the matches of the World Cup,” he tells Sportstar. As Sri Lanka posted a thrilling win against host England in Leeds, Bird watched the proceedings from the stands.
Having witnessed the evolution of umpiring, Bird believes that with technology taking the front seat, on-field umpires will soon lose their relevance.
“In my time, the umpires were very much part of the sport. They made the game more interesting. That is all gone now,” he says.
Desmond Haynes cannot believe what’s happening at the other end, during the Prudential World Cup final match between India and West Indies, at Lord’s on June 25, 1983. – HINDU ARCHIVES
Question: What are your thoughts on the standard of umpiring these days?
Answer: It’s difficult to comment on today’s umpiring standards because all the decisions are done by technology. The umpires today can always refer to technology and it gets them out of any problem, and they just (convey) that. With technology coming into all sport — be it football or rugby — things are getting vague. It takes all the authority away from the umpires. Let’s not forget, the umpires have been a part of the game.
How different was umpiring in your time?
In my day, if an umpire made a mistake, he was dropped from the club matches or the English league. Umpires were very much part of the sport, they made the game more interesting. That is all gone now. In those days, we made decisions on the field of play, but now the third umpire makes all the (crucial) decisions.
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In your long career, what is that one moment — a particular match or a decision — that you will always cherish?
The two games that I cherish are the two World Cup finals I did. The first one was in 1975, between the West Indies and Australia. It was a great game of cricket. The second was India versus the West Indies in 1983. That was a fantastic match because the West Indies side, which was probably the greatest team in the history of cricket, was beaten by India.
Batting first, India was bowled out for 183. No one in the world would have thought that India would defend that total. But Kapil Dev was a great captain, he told the India players, “We are going to win this match. We are going to bowl the West Indies side out.” And he instilled that confidence into the players. Though defending a small total, the Indian team went to the middle with a (positive mindset) and the rest is history.