Posted by: nestaquin | February 8, 2009

Paul Reiffel: The Quiet Revolutionary

paul reiffelWhile Australia continued to morph into a facsimile of the national team of 25 years ago, both in style and in terms of results, one member of the BaggyGreen brigade enhanced his reputation with a flawless debut performance on his home ground last evening, former Victorian captain Paul Reiffel.

In a revolutionary moment for Australian cricket, the imaginatively nicknamed Pistol is the first Australian Test player to umpire internationally since the legendary Charles Bannerman a century ago and if his performance last night is any indication his countrymen won’t have the benefit of his skills and cricketing experience for long. The elite umpiring panel will beckon sooner rather than later.

In his playing days Pistol was as undemonstrative as a dozing koala and as dependable as a sunrise and these qualities are most welcome in an umpire. As are an ability to concentrate when weary and as a man who could economically bowl uphill and into the wind for long spells late in the afternoon Pistol is an almost perfect fit for the job.

Unflustered and laconic there isn’t anything that can happen on a cricket field that he hasn’t encountered and it would be a surprise if he didn’t have the instant respect of the players in the same manner as former professional players like David Shepherd and Dickie Bird.

As an old bowler, he knows a nick when he sees one and although he never shows it, probably enjoys raising the finger. After all, a quick’s distaste for batsman is a lifetime prejudice.

Last night his decision making was first class and there were no quirky histrionics in his signals just a quiet efficiency and respect that mirrored his playing days.

Haddin, who was jeered to and from the ground and made an even bigger goose of himself by engaging the crowd after Guptill’s dismissal, was given out smartly by Reiffel after another injudicious shot. It was a thin edge that hardly deviated and Haddin never had a chance to stand his ground. Pistol’s index finger shot up within an instant of McCullum snatching the ball.

A few overs later Reiffel showed his true worth as an umpire when David Hussey clipped the ball firmly to Vettori at mid-off and called Clarke through in what turned out to be a suicidal single.

Vettori gathered on the run and threw down the stumps and although it all happened in a few moments Reiffel was perfectly positioned to adjudge.

As the Kiwis joyfully appealed Reiffel nodded his head acknowledging that it was out and then almost as an afterthought referred to the third umpire for confirmation. The replay showed Hussey inches short and I cannot remember the last time I saw Bucknor, Koertzen or Bowden as well positioned.

In a curious moment at match end, Reiffel removed the off and leg stumps in the fashion of modern players and gave one to the nearest man, James Hopes, said a few words, shook hands and then kept the other for himself. Hopes then ran over to debutant Callum Ferguson and presented him with the stump and it wouldn’t surprise if it was at Pistol’s direction.

Australian cricket and indeed the nation is in the doldrums and it may be some time before the inhabitants can claim to be world’s best in any endeavour but in a few years time Paul Reiffel could conceivably be considered just that in his field. I wouldn’t rule it out and in times like the present you have to find your heroes wherever you can.



  1. Brilliant piece Nesta.

  2. Nesta: I didn’t see enough of the game to judge Pistol’s umpiring, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is as good as you say. He always struck me as quite businesslike. I remember a small online chat with him once during the 1997 Ashes which had started badly for the Aussies. I asked “What needs to change for the Aussies to come back into the series?” Pistol: “We need the weather to improve”. Classic – and he was right.

  3. Off topic but this is a stop the press moment

    Jerome Taylor on FIRE.

    KP and Prior both bowled was priceless.

    As I type Eng are 51 all out, an innings and 23 run victory for WI

  4. Saw every ball Dement as did Toots who should have a few words about it when he recovers from the shock!

  5. @nesta – one thing i noticed was his cool and collected demeanor. don’t think he is going to get too flustered in test conditions like a benson or a bowden.

    what do you think of bucknor? is this his sendoff? he was a “special” one.

  6. This indeed was a refreshing thing to see. He was not flashy but yet invoking during his playing days. Always seemed respectful of the opponents and is just suited for umpiring. Nice to see former test cricketers get into umpiring and not into commentary like everyone else. Seems like he had a more impressive debut than Kumar Dharmasena but I am sure KD will only improve from here on out.

  7. Bucknor? Well when he wore spectacles he was pretty good. Think he lost them at the 2003 World Cup and he has been struggling ever since.

    The ICC demanded that Dickie retire because of his age and Bucknor should get his gold watch too because of his ability.

    Tauffel is standing in today. We hardly see him in Oz but he does look the business.

  8. I was saying the exact same thing about Pistol, he reminds me of the early Bucknor. I saw him in a one day game last year, and there was a horrible appeal by shane harwood, and he just smirked at him.

    Swap him for Harper now.

  9. Jrod – I’d rather have you than Harper!

  10. Another world class umpire that wont stand in our Tests… we’ve really been shafted in the last decade by missing out on the quality adjudicators, first Hair, then Taufel, and now, presumably, Reifel.

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