THERE is always a tremendous amount of activity going on behind the scenes at an event like the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola cricket week, and one of the less noticed is the way in which the tournament is used as a development and training opportunity for the country’s top up-and-coming umpires.
Running the umpire operation at the week in Potchefstroom this year are Murray Brown, Rudi Birkenstock and Sivuyile Mqingwana. Brown is one of the top middle men in the country and this is the fifth time that he has fulfilled this role at the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola week.
“Being here is a very important step in the development curve of our top young umpires,” he says. “This is the first occasion on the cricket ladders at which Cricket South Africa appoints the umpires and it plays a major role in the talent identification process.”
Typically, the umpires in action here will have been identified by their home associations and sent to one of the lower weeks like the under-13s or under-15s and they will have been spotted there as potential first class officials and brought into the system.
At the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Week Brown, Birkenstock and Mqingwa take the umpires under their wing and monitor, evaluate and advise them on a daily basis. “There are daily group meetings and one-on-one feedback sessions throughout the week and at the end we send a report on each umpire to Cricket South Africa,” Brown says.
“We use the captains’ match evaluations and listen to the comments of the selectors and other experienced cricket people who are at the week and are watching the matches.”
Birkenstock says they are happy with the standard of this year’s group. “It’s early days, but we have seen a number of umpires who look ready to take the next step up the ladder,” he says.
“Standing in first class cricket is still some way off, but we use this week as an opportunity to work on the core competencies of umpiring: decision-making, player management, knowledge of the laws and playing conditions, communication, on-field behaviour and coping with pressure.
“We are fortunate to have weeks like this where we can have a group of potential top umpires together to learn from each other, build team spirit and face five days of pressure.”
At the end of the week two top-rated umpires will stand in the SA Schools game, and the next two will take charge of the SA Schools Colts game.
To access the day’s play you can go onto Cricket South Africa’s FTP site: