Gustard, Smith look to make right calls
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – Umpires Patrick Gustard and Verdayne Smith said they were both elated to be elevated to the West Indies Cricket Board’s Senior Umpires Panel.
The directors of the WICB approved the recommendations of its Umpires and Match Referees Committee for six promotions to the senior umpires’ panel, when they held their last meeting in Barbados a fortnight ago.
The umpires elevated were Gustard, Smith, Zahid Bassarath, Leslie Reifer Jr, Danesh Ramdhanie and Nandkumar Shivsankar.
Gustard said he had been working hard to make the cut, following his first-class debut two years ago.
“This is really, really important to me,” he told WICB Media from his native Jamaica via telephone link-up.
“The first-class match I did in 2010 was a great experience, so I am glad to be on the senior umpires’ panel at this time and be able to have another opportunity.”
Fellow Jamaican Smith said this was justification for the hard work and commitment he had put into umpiring over the years.
“It is only a small step up the ladder,” he said. “As my mentor would say, ‘It’s just means that the work will get harder now because I want to move on further, so this is just a small step towards my ultimate goal.”
Both umpires have similar stories about unfulfilled promise as players and wanting to stay involved in the game driving their interest in this side of the sport.
The 41-year-old Gustard said: “I played the game, like most young West Indian boys, from my days at school. I really loved the game. But when I realise there won’t be any stardom for me, I chose to give back the service to the game itself and I decided to get into umpiring.”
Said the 34-year-old Smith: “When I was younger, I always dreamed of playing for West Indies. I wasn’t a bad player in high school, but players like Chris Gayle and Ricardo Powell were among my contemporaries, and maybe I didn’t have the same self-belief like them anymore. I still wanted to be in the Test arena and I figured the best way would be to be an umpire.”
Jamaica has produced some outstanding international umpires, with the incomparable Steve Bucknor at the head of the class.
Both Gustard and Smith, teachers by profession like Bucknor, said they have benefitted from his influence and hoped to come close to scaling the same heights.
“The first time, I met him I was overwhelmed,” said Smith. “But what I picked up from him over the years is to have confidence in yourself. Call it the way you see it, and don’t be influenced or intimidated by others or the situation.”
Gustard said: “I have learnt a lot from him because we have met on a number of occasions when he is doing training courses. He passed on a lot of advice (especially) about always being vigilant. (Bucknor) has really been an icon for us.”
Both Gustard and Smith said that umpiring the game was a labour of love and there was no place for lack of commitment.
“The WICB are looking for young umpires and there is scope for movement, so there is an incentive for anyone to get involved,” said Smith.
“I really love umpiring,” said Gustard. “There are some days when it can be really difficult, but when you have the love for the sport, this helps you to overcome all the challenges.”
(WICB Media Release)