Umpire Cecil Kippins Unplugged

Fri, Feb 27, '04

by AUSTIN WILSON

Umpiring

Cecil Kippins, widely regarded as Guyana?s first top class umpire, sat down with me to talk about one of his enduring passions ? the game of cricket.

In a wide ranging interview, he was candid about umpiring -- then and now; the laws of the game, favorite players, and a wide variety of topics in cricket. He officiated in 10 Tests between 1958 and 1973 and retired from first class umpiring in 1974 when he migrated to the U.S. Cecil Kippins remains devoted to cricket and apart from following cricket on the internet and TV, he travels to Barbados and England every year to watch cricket at the Kensington Oval and at Foster?s Oval in London where he is a member of Surrey Cricket Club.

Umpire Kippins displayed a phenomenal memory for dates, places and players as he reminisced about his years in cricket. Indeed it was hard to believe that he recently celebrated his 79th birthday for he does not look or act a day over 65. His basement is a veritable cricket museum with pictures, miniature bats, books and assorted memorabilia that are an absolute treasure to him and for a cricket fan like myself it was awe inspiring. Here are some excerpts from our conversation?

AW: How did you start umpiring?

CK: I used to play at Maltenoes in the early 1940?s and I was fond of scoring. My friend John ?Chief? Agard suggested that I take up umpiring because I had a book on the laws of cricket. However it was not until Jerry Niles, the games-master at Queen?s College, asked me to umpire QC?s Wight cup matches that I started umpiring. After a few games, the word got around and Kenny Wishart asked me to umpire first division cricket (Case Cup) as he felt I was good enough. My first Case Cup game was at Eve Leary in 1948 between DCC and Police and I remember Berkley Gaskin was the DCC captain.

AW: When was your first 1st class game as an umpire?

CK: 1953 British Guiana vs Trinidad at Bourda.

AW: Your first test match?

CK: 1958 West Indies vs Pakistan, also at Bourda.

AW: You were an umpire in 10 test matches. Did any of them stand out as being more difficult?

CK: None was particularly difficult.

AW: Tell me about the 1968 test match at Bourda.

CK: That match became difficult on the last day simply because of the circumstances. The WI was trying to win that game to level the series while England was desperately trying to draw the game. As a result there were so many appeals that the situation became farcical. The English had adopted a method of bringing the bat behind the pad. They were so far down the track that it was impossible to give them out LBW.

AW: Was this the same method that was used by England in 1957 to thwart Ramadin?

CK: Yes. As a matter of fact it was Cowdrey and May in England in 1957 and here it was Cowdrey again this time with Alan Knott.

AW: You clearly showed strength in not caving in to the pressure of that situation.

CK: Actually, the criticisms did not come from the players, but from the fans who were quite nasty.

AW: The laws have been changed somewhat so tactics like that today would result in the batsman being given LBW if they are not playing a shot.

CK: That is true.

AW: The great controversy today surrounds bowlers chucking. What are your views?

CK: It was quite simple in my days. If you felt a bowler was chucking, you called him and that was that. Many players had to leave the game. You remember Griffin of South Africa had just taken a hat-trick and was called at Lords and that was the end of him. Same with Meckiff of Australia. At least now there are academies and biomechanics experts to straighten out these guys today.

AW: Do you think we should go back to the old days where umpires could call players if they felt they were operating outside the laws of the game?

CK: Definitely. The modern game is taking away all the powers of the umpire with TV replays and third umpires.

AW: Any other changes you disagree with?

CK: I am opposed to the front foot no-ball rule. I think that they should go back to the back foot rule. You notice today hardly any no-balls are hit for 4s or 6s. I feel that the bowler should be punished more for bowling no balls but, with the front foot rule, the batsman does not have the opportunity to capitalise.

AW: What do you think about neutral umpires?

CK: What you need are good umpires, not neutral umpires.

AW: What do you think about the elite panel?

CK: It is stifling the development of the other umpires. Only eight or nine umpires are running all the Test matches around the world. They will become tired. It is too much and they will make more mistakes due to tiredness.

AW: What about the age of the umpire? You did your first Test match at age 33 and retired at age 49.

CK: We also had rest days. There should either be an age limit or they should expand the panel significantly.

AW: Who were the top umpires in the West Indies in your days?

CK: Cortez Jordan was an absolutely top class umpire; Ralph Gosein and Douglas Sang-Hue were also very good.

AW: What about the current umpires worldwide?

CK: Without a doubt, Steve Bucknor is the best umpire today. I am also impressed by Venkat. Shepherd and DaSilva do not impress me and Bowden of NZ is making a mockery of the game with his signals.

AW: Now for some fun stuff. As someone who has been observing WI cricket for more than 60 years, you have seen them all. Did you see George Headley?

CK: I saw him very late in his career. I did see him in 1935 but I was only 10 years at the time.

AW: You saw the 3 W?s .Which of them do you rate the best?

CK: Weekes.

AW: Any doubts?

CK: (laughing) No doubt about it.

AW: Who are the top West Indies batsmen and who is the best?

CK: I would say the 3 W?s, Sobers, Kanhai, Richards and Lara. I would always plump for Sobers. However let me say this. The greatest innings I have ever seen is that innings of 153 not out by Lara at Kensington in 1999. I have never seen an innings like that in my life and you know I have seen many innings. As a matter of fact I nearly missed my plane but I could not move from my seat that day.

AW: What about other batsmen from other countries?

CK: Cowdrey was always in the right position and was always so calm. Tom Graveney was classic but Sunil Gavaskar is one of a kind. In my World XI, Gavaskar opens my batting every time.

AW: What about Tendulkar?

Undoubtedly a great batsman, but I haven?t seen him play match winning innings.

AW: Who were your top West Indies fast bowlers?

CK: My man is Holding. You know, I was an umpire in a match between Guyana and Jamaica in 1973 when Holding was just 19 years old and I knew then that he would play test cricket.

AW: What about your all-time West Indies team?

CK: Greenidge to open with Worrell, who is also captain. Richards at # 3, Lara, Headley, Weekes, Sobers, Hendricks, Marshall, Holding , Gibbs with Lloyd as 12th man.

AW: Hendricks?

CK: He was the best wicketkeeper. This guy never dropped catches standing up to the spinners. If you look at the others they all did. Standing back to fast bowlers is easier especially if you have good footwork and Hendricks had great footwork. Actually, it is not even close.

AW: What about captaincy?

CK: The greatest captain was Frank Worrell. Lloyd was also good but Worrell was in a class by himself.

AW: Turning to today?s players. What do you think is the problem with the current WI team?

CK: Discipline. These chaps are completely lacking in discipline. Also, they do not appreciate what it means to represent the WI and the effect their performances have on West Indians around the world. What took place a few years ago on that tour to South Africa was one of the most shameful events in our history. Do you know how grateful and proud I was to walk out there to umpire a test match? It was an exhilarating feeling. I know the WI players felt the same way. We didn?t make a lot of money but it was a labor of love. Some of these guys today give the impression that all they care about is the money. They should read about Frank Worrell and adopt him as a role model.

AW: Looking at the current WI team, any batsmen impress you apart from Lara?

CK: Sarwan has impressed me. The first time I saw him I was impressed. You know it was like when I first saw Dujon in England in 1984. I was impressed with his strokeplay and I asked why is this guy keeping wicket. I felt he would have been a great batsman if he was not burdened with keeping. Gayle is also good but he needs to be more consistent and of course Chanderpaul is a most dependable player.

AW: What about the WICB?

CK: I hope my good friend Teddy Griffith will be successful. He was a gentleman-cricketer and I remember umpiring a match he played for Jamaica against Barbados at Bourda when he and McMorris as openers made centuries and then the Bajan openers Hunte and Cammie Smith also scored centuries with Hunte scoring 260 and putting Gilchrist to the sword. My big regret was the death of Conrad Hunte. I think he would have been a fine WICB President.

AW: The English will soon be here, any thoughts?

CK: I notice the English press seem to think that we are easy pickings but I think we will surprise them.

AW: Which English players impress you?

CK: The openers Trescothick and Vaughn are good, as is Thorpe. I have been impressed with Flintoff and I think he is a fine all-rounder, one of the best at the moment. I am looking forward to seeing them all at Kensington and later this summer at the Oval.

AW: Thanks for sharing some of your knowledge today.

CK: The pleasure was mine. I enjoy talking about this great game.