You have represented your state team across age-groups and have played the zonal one-dayers for the senior team. Your father - a cricketer-turned-umpire - is an influential office-bearer of the state association. You have every reason to indirectly hint to your father to nudge you into earning the Ranji Trophy cap. Instead, you end up switching your focus to umpiring.
Fifteen years hence, at a young age of 36, you are inducted into the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) Elite Panel as one of the top 12 cricket umpires in the globe. Welcome to the world of Nitin Menon.
“I realised that I wasn’t that good a cricketer to sustain at the First Class level, so we discussed it at home and decided to concentrate on umpiring instead. It was a calculated risk but I am glad it has worked for me,” Menon told Sportstar on Monday from Indore, his hometown.
Narendra Menon, his father who featured in 51 First Class games for Madhya Pradesh from late 1960s till early 1980s and officiated in four ODIs during his two-decade-long umpiring journey, reveals the discussion was far from being spontaneous.
“Even during his playing days, I had suggested to him that he should considering umpiring considering the opportunities were rising,” revealed Menon Sr.
“One fine day, just after finishing his U-22 days - by then he had played for MP in one-dayers - he walked up to me and said: ‘Papa, I am serious’. He continued playing and umpiring, having cleared the MPCA exam in his first attempt but the moment he cleared the BCCI exam in 2007, he stopped playing cricket.”
After rising through the ranks of officiating in age-group domestic tournaments, Menon made his debut - albeit in the whites he loved - as a 28-year-old in 2011-12. But despite many of the players being older than him, he earned respect on the domestic circuit of being an accurate and consistent umpire.
No wonder then that he was soon elevated into international cricket, having already officiated in three Tests, 24 ODIs and 16 T20Is in men’s cricket. The 36-year-old has also stood in ten women's T20Is, including the 2018 and 2020 T20 World Cups. Add to that a whopping 61 First Class games and multiple Indian Premier League games, including the final of the 2019 edition, and it underlines Menon’s expertise in one of the most scrutinised roles in cricket.
From his rich CV, Menon picks the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy final - a match in which that he was the designated TV umpire - as the turning point of his career so far. Halfway into the opening day at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, umpire C. Shamshuddin started feeling unwell and had to be taken off the field. Menon replaced him for the rest of the match, which boosted his confidence.
“A high-pressure game like the Ranji Trophy final, between heavyweight sides like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu at an iconic venue, it was a pressure situation to walk in midway through the match. But once I managed to hold my fort for the rest of the match, that sort of gave me the confidence that I was made for it,” he revealed.
While Nitin has zoomed into the top echelons of umpiring, the third member of the household - his younger brother Nikhil - is also a member of the BCCI panel of umpires. While Menon Sr. admits that the younger son “has a long way to go” he adds with a sense of pride “Nitin has been extremely sincere and hardworking which has reaped rewards”.
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