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At a time when our cricketers have been branded as cheats and sell-outs, it is heartening to know that at least our umpires are being held in high esteem. For the second successive year, Aleem Dar has adjudged Best Umpire at the ICC Awards. For years, “Pakistani umpiring” was the punchline to a long-running joke on the hazards cricketers face while touring the country. The reputation was well-deserved. Pakistani umpires were renowned for making decisions in favour of the home team — former captain Javed Miandad was rarely adjudicated out leg-before in Pakistan. Our umpires were also poorly trained and inexperienced. By being judged as the best umpire in the world by his peers, Aleem Dar has more than done his bit to rehabilitate the reputation of Pakistani umpires.

Dar is also a throwback to a time when umpires weren’t celebrities. The job of an umpire is to go about his work unobtrusively. It is only when they make mistakes that they bring attention to themselves. And as cricket has tried to modernise and appeal to a younger demographic, good umpiring has frequently been a victim of a desire to entertain. The showboating Billy Bowden, whose tendency to get every important decision wrong is matched only by his love for the spotlight, is the perfect example of the modern umpire. By recognising Dar’s no-frills umpiring, the ICC has shown that honest, hard work is still a valuable commodity in international cricket. Dar has already been given the Pride of Performance by the government and has launched an aid campaign for flood victims. With our cricketers heaping shame on the country, at least one person has excelled and improved our international profile. The rest of our cricketing set-up, from the chairman down to the players, needs to emulate Aleem Dar and restore Pakistan cricket to its past glory.

Published in The Express Tribune ,October 8th, 2010.

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