The appeal is loud and confident from the bowlers, the wicketkeeper and the close-in fielders. But the umpire’s dreaded finger doesn’t go up. The decision is reviewed, but it still isn’t lbw; the replays show the ball is going down the leg-side.
A couple of days later, Humaira Farah recalls the incident with pride. She is not proud just because she got it right, but also because she, along with four other women, made history at the Legends League Cricket. It is not every day that you see only women officiating in a men’s tournament.
Besides the four umpires, the match referee is also a woman. “The organisers need to be congratulated on their decision to have female umpires for all the matches,” said Shubhda Bhosle Gaikwad, who hails from Gwalior. “For me this is nothing less than a dream.”
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It could also make many girls dream of a career in umpiring. These are good times for women’s cricket anyway. Its popularity is increasing rapidly, the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) has made a woman its president, for the first time in more than two centuries, and has turned batsmen into batters. Women have also broken through the glass ceiling of commentary.
“Yes, we should have more female umpires, too,” says Renee Montgomery, the Mumbai-born Hong Kong-based flight attendant whose passion has flown her down here. “It’s been a great experience.”
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South African Lauren Agenbag nods in agreement. “I grew up watching cricketers like Morne Morkel and Kevin Pietersen, so it's amazing that I get to officiate in matches featuring them,” she says.
Humaira, the first female umpire of Pakistan, is the most experienced of the lot. “Now we have some 15 women umpires back home,” she says. “I have been an umpire in over 150 matches, and I am so happy to be here for this tournament.”
Match referee Shandre Fritz, a former South Africa all-rounder, completes the fabulous five of female officials.