R Ashwin remembers Paschim Pathak storming towards him with a purposeful look in an IPL game. Ashwin was writhing in pain with a nerve pull from the back and he thought Pathak might be sternly telling him to get off the field and stop wasting time. “I too was getting angry as he approached me. But he turned all soft, “Are you feeling okay? Is the body fine? And as soon as I said yes, he left,” Ashwin tells with a laugh on his YouTube show. “I like his hairstyle; I like his approach.”
He was a chartered accountant who got bitten by the umpiring bug. Just like Ashwin, Pathak’s long hair and approach have caught everyone’s eyes, social media has called him Rockstar umpire, and some have termed him DJ umpire.
“I received lots of messages from my friends and people whom I know. People talked about my hairstyle but it’s nothing new. I have been growing my hair for the last two years now, even in domestic cricket I stood with my long hair,” Pathak told The Indian Express.
Pathak has an old-school approach to umpiring. He likes to bend while standing behind the stumps.
It’s an old school of thought which believes that such a stance helps umpires to focus better. He recalls how he had read a famous quote about how cricket is a sport where everyone bends, including the umpire.
“The line stuck with me. If you see in cricket everyone has to bend at some point of time. The bowler has to bend while bowling, fielder bends once he takes a start and batsman too bends at stance. So even I bend while standing behind stumps. It helps me a lot in terms of concentration,” he added.
The questions about his hair don’t surprise him but he has been also asked whether he gets bored standing there all day. “Many have asked me that. I say, no not at all, I love this game. Time just flies once we are inside the field,” Pathak says.
In the ’90s, he had enrolled himself in the academy of Ramakant Achrekar, the man who had taught Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli among others.
But the reality about his talent hit home when he faced some quality bowlers in the maidans of Mumbai. The curiosity about the game though pushed him towards cricket law books and he plunged into it.
One day, he asked his neighbour Sriram Kannan, a Mumbai Ranji Trophy player, how to pursue a career in umpiring.
He found out that Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) gave chances to people to take up umpiring every year; that they just have to pass the written and practical exams. Next day, Pathak landed at the MCA premises and enrolled himself in the next season’s umpiring classes.
“I wanted to be a cricketer but soon I realised that it’s not meant for me. I was always good at studies, so my family never pressured me. I became a professional umpire after giving an exam in MCA and later cleared all umpiring exams under BCCI in 2008. Since umpiring was my passion, I stopped my CA work,” Pathak says.
The 44-year-old Mumbai umpire has umpired in IPL previously as well but hasn’t become a social-media curiosity as he has this year. Asked if any cricketer lauded his hairstyle, he politely says, “no”.
His sister created his Instagram account which has a few hundred followers. Not a tech person, Pathak says he did enjoy the brief limelight he received.
Dubai had its behavioural challenges too, in particular, the bio-bubble for umpires but Pathak is thankful for the arrangements made by the Indian board.
They were given private beach access, designated areas where they access to meet other umpires.
When not working as an umpire, Pathak helps his wife who is also a chartered accountant. Pathak hopes that in the times to come, his umpiring skills would be talked about more rather than his hair.
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