Volleyball buff to no-nonsense cricket umpire

Twenty-four years since he first umpired a club cricket match, standing in for a friend who was unavailable, Anil Chaudhary (48) finds himself at a stage which he would term ‘the beginning.’

Anil Chaudhary
Anil Chaudhary

For any umpire to be nominated to the International Cricket Council’s international panel, a detailed knowledge of the laws of the game and their interpretation along with a high degree of accuracy and consistency in decision-making are a given. Add to that, a scrupulous regimen followed to maintain physical fitness and yoga to keep the mind calm in pressure situations. The journey of patience has paid off for Chaudhary.

A sudden switch from playing volleyball to cricket way back in school and then a push by a senior colleague, Pradeep Gupta from Darling Cricket Club in Delhi which he played for, opened up the umpiring path for Chaudhary. He went through almost a decade alternating between umpiring and playing, unable to decide the one to pursue as priority. While one wonders if the umpiring journey till here has been a tad too long, it does not seem to ruffle the man too much as he allows himself to get excited though not bask in the feel for long.

People who have been associated with him for years consider some of his personal attributes as having played a critical role in the rise here. “My association with DDCA (Delhi and Districts Cricket Association) and hence with Anil Chaudhary dates back 12 years,” recalls DDCA vice-president and former India opener Chetan Chauhan. ‘I have always found him to be sincere and hard-working, taking the small games to corporate tournaments as seriously as he would, a first class or an Indian Premier League (IPL) game.’

That there is plenty of substance in what Chauhan has to say is amply demonstrated by the number of matches that Chaudhary still enthusiastically officiates in, among others, tournaments conducted in the searing heat of June in Delhi. Every year, he would stand in 20-25 matches in June, most of which are played with the day temperature hovering in the mid-40s and above. This would add to the 200 and more days that he would set himself to officiate in for the rest of the year.

While he considers exposure to more competitive matches as being a hygiene factor for an umpire to deliver better at his job, what the new- entrant to the ICC’s panel really seems to value is the introduction of cameras and video analysis in the domestic games, the poring over sessions on the umpires’ performance involving feedback and discussions that show the way ahead. The body language, reactions to appeals, movements and judgements are the areas he considers to have most benefitted from since this development from BCCI, a few years back.

Umpire K Hariharan, who had officiated as an ICC on-field umpire in 34 one-day internationals before moving out of the international panel and had partnered with Chaudhary in the middle in over 60 first-class and league matches over 20 years, cites Chaudhary’s body language and communication skills as having gone the farthest in terms of improvement. According to Hariharan, in international games, where there are huge challenges posed especially due to the varied accents and jargon used by players and due to the intense scrutiny such matches bring along, these traits become critical in reposing players’ confidence in umpires.

Former Test opening batsman Aakash Chopra says Chaudhary is a no-nonsense umpire, who knows how to control the proceedings in the middle by striking a balance between being polite and firm. While Chopra feels that not having anyone in the ICC’s elite panel for almost nine years reflects poorly on the resources and management of talent in this country, he hoped that the current nominated members to the international panel would make it to the highest level.

Chaudhary looks forward to working closely with Simon Taufel (ICC’s umpire training and performance manager), the umpire he has admired the most, along with S Venkataraghavan. Living out of a suitcase, officiating in back-to-back matches, zipping from one part of the globe and climatic conditions to another, getting exposed to different types of playing conditions are all part of the current-day international umpire’s expedition. While many believe that he has the ability to go much beyond where he is at the moment, Chaudhary would like to take things one step at a time and concentrate on working on his focus and body language more.

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