'Centurion' Suresh Shastri thanks former umpire AM Mamsa
As a young cricketer in the early 1970s, Suresh Shastri always liked being part of discussions with cricket umpires.
He attended umpiring practical sessions to add on to his left-arm spinning cricket expertise. In Hyderabad today where the hosts take on Kerala in the Ranji Trophy, Shastri, a former Rajasthan and Central Zone player, becomes the first Indian to umpire 100 first-class matches.
Shastri told MiD DAY yesterday that it was former Test umpire A M Mamsa who urged him to adorn the white coat after he learnt that Shastri had put an end to his first-class cricket career in 1987. “I started doing local matches in 1989. When the BCCI invited former players to take up umpiring, I went for a test and passed,” said 58-year-old Shastri.
The spinner also represented Nirlons on the inter-office circuit and paraded his skills for Indian Gymkhana where he profited from discussions with old faithfuls like V Krishnan and G K Raman at sunset.
Shastri had a taste of top-class cricket when he was in the ICC’s international umpires panel. In 2008, thanks to an exchange programme worked out by the BCCI and the South African board, he became the first Indian umpire to officiate in South Africa’s domestic cricket. He is proud of his term in international cricket, but stresses that he finds umpiring in Indian conditions the most challenging of all tasks.