Tuesday, March 5, 2024

“Rudi was always fearful of accidents”

Speaking to, Iftikhar Ali, UAE’s umpire who officiated in 10 One Day Internationals and 15 T20 Internationals, he was with Rudi Koertzen in 2001.  Iftikar Ali and Rudi Koertzen were the umpires in an ICC Associate members’ qualifier match being held in Toronto.

“We were going for the inspection of the ground from the hotel, and Koertzen told me that he preferred to sit in the back seat since he had just met with an accident a few days ago,” said Iftikhar, while recalling that match and the incident.

“In those days, there were ICC Associate members’ qualifier matches and I got to umpire with him in Toronto at the same ground where the Sahara Cup was held. It was my first match in a foreign country though I made my international match debut much later in 2016 in Abu Dhabi. I was so delighted to be with such a famous and experienced umpire. Koertzen had made his debut as an umpire in 1992. I wanted to learn from him and would watch him very closely during that match,” said Iftikhar, who retired from officiating in international matches in March 2022.

“Koertzen knew it was my first match; so he was very kind and would guide me often. He stressed on the importance of being confident. I also remember an incident when we went to the ground for inspection before the match. There was the 15 yard circle those days, and according to the rule two players had to be inside the circle. Within a minute of reaching the pitch, Koertzen said that the circle was not marked 45 degrees from the middle stump on the left side. He called the curator and asked him to measure it, and Koertzen was right. He was able to detect such flaws with his naked eye,” remarked Iftikhar, who also watched him closely while he prepared before the match.

Iftikhar Ali

“Before going out to umpire, Koertzen would take out an old style ball-counting equipment from his kit bag. When I asked about it, he said that it was given to him by his mentor and it was something he always carried with him. Darrell Hair was the umpires’ manager for that match and I also got to interact with him. After the match, we would all sit together and talk about cricket. I remember Koertzen talking about numerous incidents from the past and some of his experiences during umpiring,” recalled Iftikhar, who in 2002 was the fourth umpire for the Pakistan-West Indies Test match at the Sharjah Stadium.

Koertzen believed in accepting any mistakes committed on the field and never hesitated to apologize. According to Iftikhar, this is a great quality given that “umpires are humans and can make mistakes.” Koertzen’s style of umpiring came to be known as the “slow finger of death.” In fact, he also named his book ‘Slow Death’. None expected death would come to him so fast. He  was fit and agile even at 73 after having officiated in the highest number of international matches (331) from all formats.

(KR Nayar, a much awarded sports writer, reported on no less than 13 World Cups. This piece has been taken with gratitude from his blog— krbuzz.blogspot.com)

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