Year:- 2000. I was established as an umpire within Essex and I always dreamed of umpiring professional cricketers. I was on the fringes of possible promotion when one week I got a call from Essex County Cricket Club.
“Allen, how would you like to umpire Essex 2nd XI versus a touring Pakistan Academy side?” I jumped at the chance. Professional players with little old me, only an umpire for 13 seasons, taking charge.
The day was typically English summer like. Rain. But it did clear and I looked forward to the match. My colleague was an ex first class county player who was looking to become a professional umpire. He was very personable and very friendly, and he said he would look to me for some tips! An ex pro wanting tips from a guy who hardly ever played the game? Strange, but true.
The game went well, I didn’t have to do very much and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The players certainly played it tough and there were more than the odd word exchanged in anger on a few occasions. But it was soon forgotten and the game was good. I was treated very kindly and very well.
The coach had a kind word to say about my performance afterwards and then said that I was being kept on eye on for future promotion, i.e. County Championship 2nd XI games maybe? I digested his words on the way home, and while satisfied with how the day went, the demons that cause me so much negativity came to haunt me.
Did I want this possible promotion? Was I good enough? Not sure on either question. The self doubt crept in, I don’t think that I would have been good enough. The pressure at that level would have been intense, the players play for their career not just enjoyment. I doubt I would have been able to cope with the intense scrutiny, and as time as passed, probably just as well.
Who knows where I could have ended up? I could have been making progress towards possible professional umpiring. But, deep down, it probably would be a major step too far. The self doubt again. I only lasted another three more years as a League umpire, with the enjoyment going out of cricket for me. I tried to return to League action in 2013, but again, my mental equilibrium being shot to bits, the comeback lasted four games.
The lack of confidence, the lack of self esteem, the thoughts of not being good enough. Those thoughts invade my thinking on numerous occasions. Where did it all go wrong? But that’s another story.