Umpires all stay in the same good hotels nowadays. The days of going around the country in a campervan, as Roy Palmer used to, have long gone. Five years ago the ECB decided to book all our accommodation for us, which I much prefer. The bill goes straight to them; umpires no longer have to try to ind cheap places to save money.
I like hotels that overlook the ground, which means my umpiring partner and I can have a nice, leisurely breakfast. I read the Daily Telegraph, although I am aware the coverage is not what it was: sometimes I look up at the press box and see only two people in it. Wherever I am, I arrive at the ground just before 9am. We don’t oicially take over the pitch until after the toss. It is up to the groundsman what surface to prepare. On days two, three and four we oversee the mowing. We check that after leaving two inches of grass before the start of the match he does not shave the surface to death. We chat with the odd player and sometimes coaches wander over. We like to be open and receptive to them, but the days have also long gone when we have a drink with them or the players in the evening. A lot of teams go and have warm-downs in the swimming pool at their hotel. The drawback is that I don’t know the players so well.
We have to remind them of microphones and to mind their language. Then I go back to our umpires’ room, have a cup of tea and prepare for a long day. Last summer I found myself standing for the irst half-hour of one match with Tim Tremlett, the former Hampshire allrounder, as Ian Gould was held up in traic. And some mornings I wake up in a hotel and think: “Am I in Cardif or Southampton?” Fortunately the ECB give us the option to stay on after the match inishes: the biggest travelling problem we face is that roads are no longer clear late at night there is a tendency to dig them up and do repairs. No longer does an umpire like Vanburn Holder journey around the country on trains. I am always starving come lunch. Most grounds provide good food now. There has been discussion about lengthening the tea interval umpires are efectively down to 15 minutes, as we are last of and irst back on but nothing has come of it. And the sessions of play, particularly in April when there is not much spin, can be longer than scheduled so as to it the overs in. It is in the captains’ interests to get on with the game as points can be deducted: I tell them to do so if they are behind. Generally, relationships are pretty good. Any reporting of players is done immediately through the liaison officer, who is always present.
In the old days I’d walk of the field and crack open a beer. I don’t suppose there are any in the fridge now but 90 per cent of clubs will bring one in for us. At Hampshire, Rod Bransgrove always invites us into the Robin Smith Suite. Then I wander back to the hotel. We don’t really have a budget for dinner: £20–£25 is acceptable. I sit down with my fellow umpire and the liaison oicer. Occasionally our wives pitch up – Chris Kelly, our manager, always says that if wives want to go to a match, the hotel room will not be an extra cost. We are unlikely to be joined by players but old friends such as Dave Ripley, Steve Stubbings and Alan Walker will sometimes come along. Standing with the likes of Nick Cook, Tim Robinson and Neil Mallender is great. I much like reminiscing in the evening with Nick. I still love the job. Towards the end of my playing days I had back trouble – running did not help – but it is not so bad now. In the irst month of the season when it is a bit chilly, the days can seem long. I turn in quite early – 10pm at the latest after a meal and a couple of beers. If I’ve had a good lunch I might not want any more food. Decisions I have made do not keep me awake: the liaison oicials, who have watched replays, make me aware if I have got something wrong. When you are doing 90 days a summer you can’t dwell on what has happened during play.