Taufel: An Australian cricket legend retires
Rarely do sports-lovers associate the phrase “legend of the game” with an official. In this case, however, it seems more than fitting.
Simon Taufel, one of the most respected umpires cricket has seen, has retired from umpiring international cricket at the relatively tender age of 41.
Already assured of his position as one of the best umpires the game has had, and the best in the last decade, he has called time on his career early rather than late.
Elevated to the Test ranks in his late twenties, Taufel has proven over and over again to be the most precise and unflappable decision maker in the game.
Five straight ICC Umpire of the year awards attest to his somewhat unnerving brilliance.
Taufel’s blank face, coolness under pressure and his lack of errors made him look robotic at times. Almost always being correct will have that effect. But his strong relationship with the players and his reasons for quitting betray a thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive man.
I remember reading an profile of Taufel in a newspaper about two years ago, and the one thing that stuck out was his answer to the question: “What’s the worst part about being an International Cricket umpire?”
There are many things that are difficult about being an enforcer of rules in sport. It is often a thankless task.
I’m sure Bill Harrigan, Shayne Hayne and Tony Archer will be able to tell you a hundred reason why officiating is difficult, and most of them would relate to on field matters, or discussion of said matters in the media.
Taufel’s answer could not have been different to this plethora of hardships encountered by an official on the field. He said that spending so little time with his family was the hardest part, daylight second.
It came as no surprise that Taufel had this to say when he announced his impending retirement: “My wife and children have supported me immensely throughout my career and it is time for me to spend more time with them.”
Taufel’s excellent umpiring record has earned him the right to call time whenever he sees fit.
The players, commentators and fans can thank a chronic back issue that cut short his playing career for the many years of service Taufel gave. His back clearly didn’t hinder his ambition to be involved with cricket at the highest level, however.
The silver lining to the injury is plain for any follower of cricket to see. He has been the best at what he does for the past decade. He stood in all the biggest matches all around the world, and what’s more enjoyed the unanimous confidence of the cricketing communities that he would make the right call when the time came.
It is a crying shame he hasn’t been able to adjudicate Test matches in his home country.
The game will suffer in the short term as it loses one of its best umpires. He was an excellent man manager on the field, and is reported to have a strong repartee with the players.
He also managed to stay out of the headlines despite the number of tools at the media’s disposal that were capable of proving his decisions wrong.
He will not be lost to the game, or the discipline of umpiring. Taufel will take a role with the ICC as the umpire performance and training manager.
It is good to know that a man with his qualities will be charged with the training of his successors.
It is only right, then, that we should recognise him for what he is, an Aussie cricket legend, though not of any conventional kind.
Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen are able to make headlines for all the right reasons as well as all the wrong ones. Taufel was rarely mentioned in the papers, unless it was recounting a decision he made, inevitably a correct one.
Some would say this is the mark of a champion in the field that Taufel’s back chose for him.
So for making the right calls and not making headlines, Simon, I applaud you on a great career.
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