Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Umpire S Ravi

On the verge of a significant milestone - Set to become India's 2nd most capped umpire behind Venkataraghavan
Has been included in the ICC Elite Umpires Panel for the 3rd year in a row
It’s a proud moment for cricket in Madras. RBI Staffer and International Umpire S Ravi (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2013/08/s-ravi-set-for-umpiring-test-debut.html) has recently been inducted into the Elite Panel of Umpires for the 3rd year in a row. Of particular significance is the fact that the strong professional panel of the ICC that selected him was headed by legendary S Venkataraghavan, the first and the only other Indian to have been on the Elite Panel.

His Umpiring Mentor from his days in the 1990s Radhakrishnan, himself a Board Umpire had said 5 years ago that Ravi had it in him to become the best umpire in the World (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2013/08/s-ravi-has-it-in-him-to-become-no-1.html)

A monumental achievement 
Even more significant is that Ravi is also on the verge of a huge milestone and is likely to achieve that this season. After last evening’s epic clash at Headingly (the biggest run chase there since Sir Don Bradman’s memorable 400+ chase 70 years ago) that West Indies won,  Ravi, who called it one of the best test matches he has stood in, has now umpired 23 tests, just 3 behind VK Ramaswamy. By the end of this 17-18 season, it is likely he would have overtaken Ramaswamy into 2nd place in the all time list of Indian umpires behind Venkataraghavan.

That would rank as a monumental achievement for an umpire  who went through almost two decades in first class cricket in India umpiring just a match or two each season.

IPL transforms his career
It was the IPL that transformed Ravi’s career prospects dramatically. Suddenly he was seen alongside international umpires such as Simon Tauful who was to become his international mentor in the years to come. Creditable performances in the IPL helped him scale into the top league and he finally got into the international panel in 2012, almost 25 years after he took to umpiring. Ravi has officiated in all the ten editions of the IPL, most times under intense pressure.

International Debut- Bizarre Circumstance
He was set to make his international debut in the test between Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in 2012 but that series was called off at the last moment. And thus his long wait continued. ICC then requested International cricketer turned umpire Richard Illingworth to step aside for the Bangladesh v New Zealand series (Ravi was not scheduled to umpire that series) to accommodate and give Ravi his international debut. Illingworth, who is now in the Elite Panel alongside Ravi gladly acceded to this request, thus paving the way for Ravi’s international umpiring debut.

20 Reviews in 2 tests leads him into the Elite Panel!!!!
Since then, Ravi has made steady progress on the international scene. In the English summer of 2015, Ravi experienced something special that few others have. In the two test series between New Zealand and England, Ravi had over 20 reviews over the two tests with his umpiring partners at the other end having a combined tally of  just 2. With a majority of the reviews going in favour of Ravi’s on field decisions, it set him nicely ahead of the annual selection review of ICC umpires. Ravi received huge commendation from David Boon, the match referee for his decisions in that series.

At the end of that series in mid 2015 came the announcement of Ravi’s induction into the ICC Elite Panel of Umpires, the first and only umpire to-date from India, after Venkataraghavan.

'Good Job' from Venkat
Ravi looks back at that moment with great pride as an Indian Umpire. In a rare word of vocal praise, Venkat had told him at the Lords dinner table that he was doing a 'good job' on the international scene.
‘It was a great feeling as an Indian to be on the Elite Panel. In almost all other countries, there is a maximum of 25 first class umpires on the domestic scene where as in our country, we are competing against 100 other umpires. And to be elevated to the international panel and then very quickly into the top 12 umpires in the World was a special feeling.’

‘And to actually be selected by a panel headed by Venkat was even more special for he has known to be a very tough and unforgiving personality having set very high standards for himself both as a cricketer and an umpire.’.

His Best Year in Umpiring
2016 was one of the best years for Ravi. He was posted for 15 tests, 10 of them on field. Also, during the year he officiated in the first Pink Ball test. Over the last fortnight, he also umpired in another Pink Ball test this time in the first test between England and West Indies.

‘It was an amazing experience and a great honour to have umpired the first ever Pink Ball Test. Umpiring a test during the twilight zone and then suddenly seeing extraordinary amount of swing in the final session in the night needed a sudden mental transformation into another zone. We had never before seen ball swinging so dramatically and such variation between two sessions in a game had never occurred before in a test match. As an umpire, one had to be tuned to a completely different mindset. You even had the team declaring ahead of the final session so as to leverage the hugely swinging conditions in the night.’ 

Elated Feeling - Umpiring at Lords and MCG
He has now umpired thrice at Lords (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2015/05/umpire-ravi-debuts-at-lords.html). And that has been a humbling experience. While he had heard from others of the Lords’ experience, he was stunned at the respect accorded to the officials by the members.

‘At the start of each of the 15 sessions of a test, the members stood up in the long room and applauded the umpires. The traditions of the game are so well maintained there. Nowhere else in the world does one get such an elevated feeling of being thus honoured, every single time one enters the ground.’

MCG has been another great experience for Ravi. He umpired the Boxing Day test in front of 85000 spectators, a feeling that he says is beyond words.

Umpiring alongside former International Cricketers
Ravi had played only first division cricket in Madras. Officiating alongside former international players has been another special experience for Ravi. Kumara Dharmasena, Richard Illingworth, Paul Reiffel and Ian Gould had all played good amount of cricket for their country, while Ravi had not even played first class cricket in India. 

“Initially I was a little apprehensive. But over the last five years I have been able to prove to the world that I can compete with the best in business. And that not playing at the highest level is not necessarily a hurdle to the growth of an umpire.”

Taking to Golf for Fitness and Networking
He has recently taken up to Golf and is often seen at the Golf Course here in Madras. On the world scene, he 'competes' with the best of former cricketers turned Golf amateurs such as Jeff Crowe and Richard Illingworth. This has also helped him with his fitness levels as well as build his networking capabilities.
A Photo of Ravi at the Golf Course in Madras
 just ahead of the Eng v WI series this month

Umpiring Prospects from India
He has encouraging words for Nitin Menon who he believes has the potential to be on the Elite Panel in the future. He is also of the view that J Madanagopal and KN Anantha Padmanabhan, both former first class cricketers, have it in them to scale up to the international level in umpiring, if given the right opportunities. 
Long Term Commitment bears fruits
Ravi is a perfect example of how long term commitment in life will finally yield results. Through the 1990s and 2000s, there was scope for frustration for he simply did not get the chances that he merited. There was no fast track system for the best umpires in the Indian Domestic Circuit. They simply had to go through the grind. Year on year for two decades, he simply stuck to his role umpiring just a couple of first class matches each season. He went out there and tried to perform his duties to the best of his capability in the limited opportunities that came his way.

And now past 50, Ravi is reaping for the rewards for his decades of hard work and the patience that he showed. Three years in a row on the Elite Panel is a clear endorsement that he is amongst the very best in the world.

And when he becomes the 2nd most capped umpire from India later this season, it will be a momentous occasion for him to be alongside Venkataraghavan as the two All Time Best Umpires from India. And that’s no mean achievement for a man who took to umpiring just to meet his monthly expenses as a teenager way back in the mid 1980s!!!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good One, Prabhu.

Good luck to Ravi.

Though he did do well overall (in yesterday's context), that one disallowed leg bye kind of tarred all his good work black... I'm not an umpire, neither do I claim that I recite the laws of cricket in sleep, but I'm still grappling how, trying to pluck a reason out of the thick Chennai air and justify Ravi's decision to disallow...

Srb S said...

KUDOS TO OUR RAVI.YOU HAVE MADE US ALL PROUD AND I FEEL AS IF I MYSELF HAVE BEEN HONOURED. IT IS NOT A MEAN ACHIEVEMENT TO SCALE TO THIS LEVEL ESPECIALLY AGAIST ALL ODDS. I ALSO WISH TO CONGRATULATE HIS FAMILY MEMBERS WHO ALSO HAVE BEEN GIVING HIM SUPPORT OVER THE YEARS.

S.R.BALASUBRAMANIAN
TNCA PANEL UMPIRE (for more than 3 decades)

Unknown said...

Nice article and I am proud and happy as well to have umpired with him in senior division and buchi babu games. Good luck to him. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Superb article Prabhu. Ravi deserves all the accolades and he worked tirelessly to get into the elite panel of umpires.He has many more glorious years ahead of him and I wish him all the very best.

Regards,
Kalyanasundaram B

Sundar said...

Another lovely piece penned by you Prabhu. A good friend of mine, I know Ravi as a competent& technically correct opening batsman who used to turn up regularly for RBI in the first div. league. Always a friendly rival, he played the game fair and square and could have gone to greater heights as a cricketer, but somehow could'nt which was always the case with many talented cricketers those days.What he could'nt achieve as a cricketer he as achieved it as an umpire & has made it big time. He thoroughly deserves it. My best wishes to him through your blog. "Happy Umpiring " Ravi.