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Sport

I'm uncomfortable criticising umpires while commentating: Taufel

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LEADING LIGHT: Umpire Simon Taufel checks the light meter as colleague Steve Bucknor and Indian batsmen Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni look on during the first Test against England in July 2007

Simon Taufel is a new face in the commentary box. But the former umpire is not looking for a career in TV. He has his heart set on training more of his kind for the future.

Kaise ho, sab teak taak?" The Hindi may be accented, but the voice that greets you is friendly. The tall and graceful figure of Simon Taufel looms from the umpires' room at the Wankhede Stadium and offers you a drink. It is just prior to the game between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders. It's been a busy Tuesday for the 42-year-old New South Welshman. He's just finished a simulated training process for the third umpires in the afternoon, before hopping past the ground for his commentary stint for the evening game.

Taufel, who retired from international umpiring after the World T20 in Sri Lanka last October, is also umpiring in games during the T20 league and is doing a fine juggling job.

But why did the five-time ICC Umpire Of The Year take up commentary? "Ask the organisers of the tournament, " he laughs, adding, "Probably they wanted to take me out of my comfort zone. " Taufel is working passionately in his new role of Umpires Performance and Training Manager with the ICC and is also tirelessly working on accreditation modules for developing umpires' coaches.

But it's his latest avatar as a commentator that's made people sit up and take notice. Taufel says he wants to help raise the profile of umpiring and encourage prospective umpires to start young and also help viewers demystify the job. "My short stint so far in commentary has helped me understand the broader aspects like looking after sponsors, the broadcaster and role of the third umpire. I am able to contribute positively to the sport by being able to help people understand umpiring, " he says, dressed in a crisp white shirt and black trousers and quenching his thirst with generous sips of a cold drink.

During his first day in the commentator's box, a poll was conducted to find out whether Taufel has a future as commentator and 79 per cent replied in the affirmative. He has also received a positive feedback from the director and his peers like Robin Jackman, HD Ackerman and Danny Morrison. "But as an Australian I know I need to slow it down. There's always room for improvement, " he says.

The one good thing about Taufel's commentary though, is it's cliche-free. With him, you won't get stuff like "It went like a tracer bullet" or "He's seeing it like a football". He calls it as he sees it. Straight and simple.

Taufel admits that criticising fellow umpires during commentary makes him most uncomfortable especially in the era of modern technology where 32 on-field cameras show up an error and magnify it. "It's uncomfortable for me to look at an umpiring decision as a commentator and criticise it because I don't think an umpire deserves to be criticised. If the decision is wrong, so be it. My job is to explain to people why that decision was probably made. As a commentator, it's very easy to be critical, " he states.

Despite earning praise, Taufel doesn't see a future for himself in TV as he says his heart is into developing more quality umpires globally and wanting to leave a legacy. "I'm a big believer in doing what you love and loving what you do. Right now, I'm developing accreditation modules for the ICC for global umpire's coaches. I'm working on training structures with full member countries. It'll help identify the best practice for developing quality umpires, " he informs.

Back in Sydney, Taufel also works for the Bradman Foundation and its website www. plotyourpitch. com and wants to encourage more Indian content on the website. That makes him busier than he was during his officiating days. "I probably am working more hours now than I ever did, " says the man who started his international umpiring career at the age of 28.

He doesn't shy from calling himself a terrible cricket watcher when at home and when he does watch, he quickly picks up a pen and paper and starts making notes. Stern looks from his wife and three kids, though, are enough to force him turn off the TV.
Taufel reveals that despite people telling him to carry on umpiring and target Steve Bucknor's record, he wasn't keen. "Once you're playing or officiating for numbers, you are doing it for the wrong reasons, " is his pregnant remark.

There's a twinkle in Taufel's eyes when he speaks about the umpire's coaching programme and says his own experiences when he started out prompted him to take the plunge. "When I came into umpiring, I tried to seek information on how to improve from other senior umpires. Sometimes, during conversations I found that they didn't want to share information and when they shared it, it wasn't in a way I found ideal. Umpires' coaching is no different to any other form of education. It's about engaging individuals rather than telling them what to do. "

Ask him what he misses about umpiring internationally and he mentions, "On-field camaraderie with colleagues and the high of walking off the field, knowing that you have had a good day. "

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