Cricket umpires are responsible for making decisions and calls in a game of cricket. They also ensure that players and matches follow the rules of the game, taking a similar role to referees in other sports. Most umpires, at least at a professional level, are male, even in women's cricket, and there was only one female umpire at the Women's Cricket World Cup in 2013. The number of umpires on the field varies according to the type of match played.
Before the cricket match starts, umpires inspect the pitch area, make sure that all equipment is set out, and check that the boundary is correctly marked before play begins. They then meet with team captains to check team details and to discuss hours of play, the timing of food and drink breaks, and rules of play, before the coin toss to decide which team bats or bowls first.
Most cricket matches have two umpires on the field. The first stands at the stumps behind the bowler, and the second at a position known as "square leg" to the left of the batsman. There are three umpires in an international match. The third official gives a final decision from a TV monitor if the other umpires feel that a decision is unclear and they need to see a replay. At international "Test" level, players can also appeal against an on-field umpire decision and use the third umpire to challenge the call.
Position and Decisions
Umpires monitor fair play and make decisions on game play. They also monitor overs -- sets of six balls bowled at one end of the pitch -- and tell teams when to change ends. It is the umpire's job to rule on whether a batsman is out, whether a bowler has bowled illegally and to make a call on how many runs a batsman hits. The position on the pitch dictates the decisions each umpire makes. For example, the bowler-end umpire looks for mistakes such as illegal bowls (no-balls), wide/high balls (wides) and balls that would have hit the wicket, but that were diverted by the batsman's leg (LBW/leg before wicket). The other umpire looks for things like the ball hitting the wicket before the batsman gets back to it from a run (run-outs and stumpings). The two switch positions after each over.
When an umpire makes a decision, he may shout out a call and make a hand signal if the judgment needs to be communicated. Players on a cricket pitch are spread over a wide area, and umpires need to be loud and to gesticulate clearly so that both teams understand what has happened. This also helps off-field scorers who may not be able to see the finer details of play as it happens.
Skills and Training
An effective cricket umpire has an in-depth understanding of the game and its rules. Umpires have good communication and management skills, must stay calm under pressure and have the ability to make quick and accurate decisions. Amateur umpires may only need a short training course; professional umpires have more intensive programs. Accreditation as a fully certified umpire through the United States of America Cricket Association, for example, takes four years.
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