The bowler who wears the umpire’s hat

Former England cricketer Martin Saggers, who made his debut under Michael Vaughan, is currently in India as an umpire for Ranji Trophy games as part of the international exchange programme between India and England.

After making his debut in 2003 at Chittagong, replacing an injured Andrew Flintoff, Saggers played his first home Test against New Zealand at Headingley the following season.   -  P.K. AJITH KUMAR

 

Martin Saggers has played Test cricket in Bangladesh and toured Nepal and Hong Kong with the MCC. But, the former England swing bowler could never play in India.

So when the offer came from the England Cricket Board to umpire in Ranji Trophy matches, he jumped at it. And he is glad that he has come to India, as part of the international exchange programme for umpires for domestic matches.

After officiating the Mumbai-Tamil Nadu match in Mumbai, he came here for the game between Maharashtra and Karnataka. “I have enjoyed umpiring in the warm weather of India; you know it would be freezing cold in England in April for the County matches,” he told Sportstar.

“But it is much cooler here, and the conditions were good for bowlers in the first morning; I would not have mind bowling myself.”

He said he was impressed with the Karnataka bowlers, especially R. Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun. “I thought it would have been interesting how they would bowl in England,” he said. “And I feel this Karnataka team is really good and could do well if they were to play some County sides back home.”

He rates Mumbai’s teenaged sensation Prithvi Shaw, whom he saw score a hundred against Tamil Nadu, highly. “He looks really good,” Saggers said. “He plays his shots nicely, but I feel he may have to be a bit more judicious to play a bigger innings.”

Looking back at his playing career, Saggers said he was happy that he could play in three Test matches, all under Michael Vaughan. "I was 31 when I made my debut, but that was also because I was a late starter; I had begun playing First Class cricket only five years before," he recalled. "I had done my degree in Architecture, in which I could have had a career. But I was glad that I was picked in the Test squad, which I was dreaming about."

After making his debut in 2003 at Chittagong, replacing an injured Andrew Flintoff, he played his first home Test against New Zealand at Headingley the following season. He took a wicket with his first ball of the match, that of Mark Richardson.

"I was bowling well that day, but there wasn't much cricket after that, because of rain," he said. "And that was pretty disappointing, because I could have got a few more wickets that day."

Among the present day bowlers, he thinks highly of James Anderson. "He is the best ever bowler England has ever had," he said. "To take 500 wickets is a wonderful achievement."

About his decision to take up umpiring as a profession, he said he had decided to do so even when was active as a player. "I had taken the umpiring tests during my playing days," he said. "I enjoy this job. It helps me continue my association with cricket."