The 37-year old ICC Elite Panel umpire says pressure situations bring the best out of him
Umpire Nitin Menon, who officiated in matches across formats in the recently-concluded India-England series, has said that pressure situations bring the best out of him, and feels form matters for umpires as much as it does for players.
The 37-year-old was inducted into the ICC Elite Panel of umpires in June last year but had to wait till this February for his first major assignment. With the pandemic forcing the ICC to appoint local umpires in a bilateral series, Menon officiated in all four Tests besides three of the five T20s and all three ODIs. Menon was lauded for his consistency in his decision-making during the Test series: he had a success rate of 83.87% for on-field decisions, with 26 of 31 reviews against him struck down.
“The last two months have been great,” Menon was quoted as saying by PTI. “It gives one great satisfaction when people notice and appreciate your good work. This series was always going to be a very challenging one because of the hype associated with it – a place in the World Test Championship final at stake, both teams coming back from impressive overseas wins, challenging pitches to officiate on.
“Like players, umpires also have form. I always feel that when in good form, I should do the maximum number of games without any break.”
“As for the white-ball series, it was between the two top-ranked teams in the world. Taking all these factors into consideration, I am pleased that we did well as an umpiring team,” he said.
In a normal scenario, Menon won’t get to officiate in back-to-back games over two months. So, how did he cope up with high pressure scenarios match after match? “I believe umpiring is all about mental toughness,” he said. “More the pressure better is the focus. If we can give our best performances when we are under pressure, that is the true reflection of how strong we are mentally. It’s not new for me to officiate in back-to-back matches, thanks to the amount of domestic cricket organised in India. On an average, we do eight four-day first-class games on the trot in Ranji Trophy, with travel in between from one venue to another.
“Even in the IPL, we do around 14-16 games without a break, so all this experience has really helped me in this series. Like players, umpires also have form. I always feel that when in good form, I should do the maximum number of games without any break.”
After two months of non-stop umpiring, Menon got only a couple of days at home before he left for Chennai ahead of the IPL. The bubble life has been tough on the players and Menon said it is equally challenging for the match officials.
“It is very challenging. It is tougher on off days because we cannot go out of the hotel. This is where having a good team atmosphere becomes crucial. We are like a family in the bubble. We have to look after each other, make sure our colleagues are in the right frame of mind, help them out, meet as often as possible and spend time together.”
Ramesh Powar returns as India Women coach, no extension for WV Raman
He replaces WV Raman, coming back after his last stint had ended in an acrimonious fallout with Mithali Raj
Powar was replaced by WV Raman, and will now take over from the incumbent. While Raman’s coaching tenure began in December 2018, the Indian team has been largely inactive for almost two years, including the time period after which the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
— RAMESH POWAR (@imrameshpowar) May 13, 2021
Under Raman, India reached the final of the T20 World Cup in 2020, losing to Australia on March 8. With the pandemic striking worldwide almost immediately after, the team didn’t play another international match until their home series against South Africa Women that began on March 7 earlier this year. South Africa won the ODIs 4-1, and the T20Is 2-1.
Raman’s position had come in for scrutiny following the losses to South Africa, and those reversals, ESPNcricinfo understands, prompted the selection panel led by Neetu David to ask the BCCI for a rethink on the support staff. BCCI secretary Jay Shah is believed to have spoken to at least one member of the selection committee before the Indian board put out an advertisement, on April 13, inviting applications for the head coach’s job – for a term of two years, with the job including overseeing the senior team as well as the India A and Under-19 teams.
Powar was then selected by the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising Madan Lal, RP Singh and Sulakshana Naik, who interviewed a number of candidates for the post which saw 35 applications. Besides Powar and Raman – who re-applied – the others in the fray were Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Ajay Ratra, Mamtha Maben, Devika Palshikar, former chair of selectors Hemlatha Kala, and former assistant coach Suman Sharma.
Powar had first been appointed as coach in July 2018 in an interim capacity, and his contract was then extended to cover the 2018 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. While India reached the semi-finals of the event, its aftermath had Raj and Powar trading accusations, with Raj saying she felt “deflated, depressed and let down” by the actions of Powar during the tournament, and Powar countering that Raj had “threatened to retire” mid-tournament if she wasn’t given the opener’s slot.
The controversy meant Powar’s contract was not renewed, even though senior players Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana had both written to the BCCI urging them to continue with him.
Powar then worked at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and with the India A sides, before taking over as the coach of Mumbai men’s team in February 2021. Under his charge, Mumbai turned their fortunes around to romp to the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-overs domestic competition) title after a forgettable Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign in which they won only one of their five games.
In his playing career, Powar played two Tests and 31 ODIs for India from 2004 to 2007, taking a total of 40 international wickets. His domestic career spanned from 1999-00 to 2015, as an offspinning allrounder of considerable skill. He took 470 first-class wickets (average 31.31) while also scoring 4245 first-class runs (average 26.53) in 148 games. He played 113 List A matches, taking 142 wickets and hitting 1082 runs. Powar played 28 T20 games, including in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab and Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
Steven Smith was given captaincy too young but I’d support him getting the job again
“Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent,” Paine said of Smith
Australia captain Tim Paine has argued that Steven Smith was too immature for the demands of captaincy when the national role was first handed to him in 2014 and 2015. But Paine has fewer qualms about Smith returning to the job whenever the incumbent chooses to retire.
Paine, who initially had been unsure of whether he would continue as captain beyond the end of the 2019 Ashes, has hung on for another two years since, and the national team coach Justin Langer has attempted to end any speculation on the future by claiming that the selectors aren’t even discussing the issue.
But this summer’s Ashes series looms as the most logical conclusion to Paine’s unexpected run in the job, which came about directly through the Newlands scandal that saw Smith banned from playing for a year and banned from leadership for two years.
“At least another six Tests,” Paine told the Chappell Foundation dinner when asked how long he had left. “If I feel like the time is right and we’ve beaten the Poms 5-0, what a way to go out. But it might be a tight series and we might be chasing 300 on the last day and I’m 100 not out and hit the winning runs — and then I might go again.”
Smith’s entourage, including his leadership mentor Maurice Duffy, are adamant that he should get the chance for a second go at a role that was snatched away from him after events in South Africa.
“It would be a tragedy right now if he didn’t get the opportunity to be captain again,” Duffy told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2019. “He owns himself much more now. He has an inner calmness. He owns his own feelings a lot better now, he’s much more in control of himself. I think he’s got a better outlook on life right now and I think he appreciates hugely what has been given to him.”
Other senior figures in Australian cricket are not so sure, and New South Wales broadened the race to replace Paine by handing domestic limited-overs captaincy duties to Pat Cummins instead of Smith earlier this year. Paine, who has never argued against Smith getting the job again, maintained his stance on Wednesday night.
“I think so. Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent. Certainly tactically he is as good as you get,” Paine said. “He’s probably a bit like me when I was at the start of my captaincy journey in Tasmania — he was thrown into a very big role at a very, very young age and he probably wasn’t quite ready for it.
“But by the time I came in he was growing into that role and getting better and better. Then obviously South Africa events happened and he’s not doing it anymore. But yeah I would support him getting that job again.”
On captaincy in general, Paine said that in his experience that ambition for leadership was often a dangerous thing. “In my experience the guy who wants it too much is probably not the best option,” Paine said. “So if [his son] Charlie does come up and says he wants to be captain of Australia, I’d say just lower your expectations and worry about being a good player and a good team man and whatever happens from that would happen.”
Reflecting on the series defeat to India, Paine said that the hosts had been distracted by the tourists’ psychological tactics. “Part of the challenge of playing against India is they’re very good at niggling you and trying to distract you with stuff that doesn’t really matter,” Paine said, “and there were times in that series where we fell for that.
“The classic example was when they said they weren’t going to the Gabba so we didn’t know where we were going. They’re very good at creating these sideshows and we took our eye off the ball.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
WBBL 2021 – Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav set for maiden WBBL deals
Verma has already signed a contract with two-time champions Sydney Sixers
ESPNcricinfo understands that Verma, 17, has already signed a contract with two-time champions Sydney Sixers while Yadav, 21, is on the verge of finalising her deal with one of the two Sydney-based clubs. Aside from Verma and Yadav, at least one more India player is likely to make her maiden appearance in the competition this season.
“Yes, Shafali has signed the contract with Sydney Sixers, and given she is a minor, I have had to give my consent, too,” Verma’s father, Sanjeev, told ESPNcricinfo. “I would like to thank the BCCI and Haryana Cricket Association [HCA] for giving my daughter the permission and support to play in the WBBL. Without the guidance of the HCA, whatever Shafali is doing in her career wouldn’t have been possible.”
A senior BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo that the WBBL could see the largest ever Indian contingent this season. “All players who have been or will be approached by Big Bash teams will be given all necessary permissions to participate in the WBBL this season,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
Verma, as reported by ESPNcricinfo last week, is also set to make her debut in the inaugural edition of the Hundred, the 100-ball domestic competition of the ECB. She will be joined by her India team-mates Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues.
Only three India players have played in the WBBL previously. India T20I captain Kaur and vice-captain Mandhana debuted in the 2016-17 edition for the Sydney Thunder and the Brisbane Heat respectively. While Kaur played three straight seasons for the Thunder, Mandhana’s second bow in the competition was for the Hobart Hurricanes, in 2018-19. Veda Krishnamurthy played a solitary season, in 2017-18, also for the Hurricanes.
The WBBL didn’t have any Indian representation in 2019-20 as they focussed on preparing for the 2020 T20 World Cup instead, with assignments against South Africa and West Indies during the same time as the WBBL. A clash in scheduling with the 2020 Women’s T20 Challenge, the domestic three-team, four-match competition run by the BCCI, ruled at least three top-drawer India players out of the WBBL.
The seventh season of the WBBL is likely to run in its usual October-November window, and overseas players will be expected to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in Australia.
Additional reporting by Daniel Brettig
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
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