Sunil Chaturvedi is all set to become a trailblazer as a BCCI match referee. He is looking forward to the Ranji Trophy match between Delhi and Hyderabad in New Delhi from December 25, which will be his 100th first-class match. He made his debut as match referee in the North Zone Ranji Trophy match between Services and Himachal Pradesh in Una in November 1999.
The 58-year-old Kanour-born former Uttar Pradesh wicketkeeper has been a match official in Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Zal Irani Cup, and first-class matches featuring the A teams of India, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Once he bid adieu to the game as a wicketkeeper-batsman for Uttar Pradesh for 13 years from the 1979-80 season (72 matches, 3864 runs, 7x100s, 106 victims) Chaturvedi had options in becoming a full-time coach or commentator, but he chose to become a match referee.
After officiating in 285 matches across formats, Chaturvedi says: “It is a challenging job. You need to handle situations delicately. It's the referee's responsibility to ensure the smooth conduct of the match; he has to deal with the players, team management, ground officials, organisers, and anyone else associated with the match. Man management becomes crucial.”
Furthermore explaining the task, he says: “You need to be fair, honest and follow the rule book at all times. This becomes even more challenging since you have to make quick decisions. Any issue during the game has to be dealt with immediately and you have to think on your feet and decide what's the best course of action. Maintaining the spirit of the game is a responsibility that rests on the referee's shoulders.”
With the ever increasing pressure on the match officials, Chaturvedi feels it was difficult to get the players recognise the importance of code of conduct on the field. “When I started out in 1999, the players weren't as cognisant of their responsibilities. The more established players, would argue with the umpires and their opponents, even fake injuries at times to get extra rest, and have a general disregard for the spirit of the game. But I'm glad we have played our part in pushing Indian cricket in the right direction over the years.”
Chaturvedi looks back at his career, as a cricketer and match official, with satisfaction. He made a decision to move to Mumbai in the early 1980s. “I played with Sunil Gavaskar for Nirlon. It was a dream come true for me. I also played for Shivaji Park Youngsters. I have been with Union Bank for more than three decades. I thank the BCCI, UPCA and Union Bank for encouraging me. “
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