Being an umpire in cricket is hardly an easy task, especially if you’re officiating a high-pressure game between India and arch-rivals Pakistan. However, for an experienced umpire like AV Jayaprakash, the match held at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla on February 7, 1999, was just another match. It was on this day, 20 years ago that Anil Kumble became the first Indian bowler to bag 10 wickets in an innings. Coincidentally, it was umpire Jayaprakash who declared all the 10 Pakistan batsmen out. Today he regards it as the most treasured moment of his umpiring career.
“Today so many years down the line it feels as if I am a part of the history books along with Anil Kumble. I have kept a CD of that match and sometimes when my friends and family come for a visit and insist on revisiting those days I rewind and watch it along with them.” Jayaprakash said in an interview with the Indianexpress.com.
“Umpires do not officiate for records but for my satisfaction, it will definitely remain in the record books of cricketing history and ofcourse I treasure this memory and it will remain with me for the rest of my life.” he added.
However, it was only at the airport (after the match) that Jayaprakash realized that all the 10 decisions were given by him. “Normally people do not recognize umpires at once. But at the Delhi Airport, there was a group of people who recognized me instantly and started congratulating and pointed out the fact.”
Recalling the hazy Delhi afternoon of 1999, Jayaprakash says that it was one of those occasions when everything went right for him as an umpire. “In umpiring, you have some good and some bad days. But that day was perfect,” he said.
However, there was one decision that met with dissent from Pakistan’s opening batsman Shahid Afridi after he was given caught behind. On being asked whether Afridi’s caught behind was contentious Jayaprakash said, “There was a big noise and I was sure about it. But if the batsman is unhappy it can’t be helped. However, after the match, Afridi was hauled up by the match referee for dissent. So I think it settles there itself.”
A couple of on-field incidents are still etched in Jayaprakash’s memory from that day and one of those involves Sachin Tendulkar.
“I remember when Afridi’s wicket fell, it was Sachin who had handed Anil’s cap to me before the over began. After that in every over instead of Anil, it was Sachin who kept handing me his cap and he kept doing it for all the 10 wickets”, he said.
Meanwhile, speaking about the Indian umpires of the current generation, Jayaprakash said that what they need is a rigorous training program, which must be implemented on a consistent level. “Earlier there was more emphasis on experience but now things have changed. Younger officials are entrusted with more responsibility. Hence, in India the state associations and the board must ensure that they are mentored professionally and given rigorous training. They are doing it but it is not consistent and this lack of consistency is something that must be sorted out”, he said.
When asked if he is open to the idea of mentoring the younger lot Jayaprakash said, “I am always open to the idea of sharing my experience with the younger crop and I want to see more Indian umpires go up the ladder”, he said.