In what has been a depressing and heart-wrenching year for Pakistan cricket, one man has provided Pakistan cricket fans with a reason to rejoice. Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar was once again named the ICC Umpire of the Year, at the 2010 ICC Awards ceremony. Dar continued to exhibit the sound judgment, calming presence and unflappable nature that won him the the same accolade last year. An honour richly deserved for one of the most gracious and likeable men in the game today.
PakPassion.net had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Dar, and found out more about his personal journey.
It all started with a fierce desire to play for the Pakistan team not being fulfilled due to circumstances. At this point, many would have turned their back on the game and walked away, but not Aleem Dar. "I realized that perhaps it was too late to catch that train, but to break the romance with my passion for this game was not possible, so I made a life-changing decision", said Dar.
"Instead of occupying the crease as a player, I contented myself with staying on the turf as an umpire.", he added.
The 42 year old native of Jhang, in central Punjab, had to face a severe uphill battle to realize his dream, as umpiring is hardly the most established profession in Pakistan. 'Initially I started supervising cricket matches in local club tournaments, but there was hardly enough money to make it into a career to earn bread and butter for the family, so for a short interval, I thought of scrapping the whole idea. However, powered by the motivation of my beloved wife and consistent pursuance of my respected friend Mr. Azhar Zaidi, I reverted back on my decision.'
However, it was not long before Dar's ability to make the right decision at the right time was recognised, and his meteoric rise to the top had begun. "In 2002, I was included in the ICC Panel of International Umpires, supervised World Cup 2003 and finally elevated to ICC Elite Panel of Cricket Umpires in 2004", stated Dar. It was, in fact, the Dhaka Test between Bangladesh and England in late 2003 that was the start of his fantastic international Test career.
When queried on his role models in the art of umpiring, Dar cited another legendary umpire as a source of inspiration, guidance and companionship. Dar stated "Mr. Steve Bucknor is my favorite international umpire and my role model in the umpiring profession. He was closely associated with me in the initial part of my international career, and lent me maximum support as a senior in the trade, and guided me in carrying out my assignments."
A jam-packed international cricket schedule, and the emergence of Twenty20 competitions, it is an unenviable task to be the modern-day umpire. The workload is intense, and the incessant traveling makes family life a significant challenge. It is however, a challenge that Dar has taken on with a keen sense of determination.
"As an international umpire, I need to travel around the globe to fulfill my official obligations for almost 7 months a year, which does take a toll on my family life. They suffer due to my absence, but my spouse is a very understanding lady who always balances my absence by giving more time and attention to our children and has never amassed any pressure on this score, happily accepting this tough challenge. This positive attitude of hers helps me concentrate and maintain a calm and composed demeanour, even in difficult situations."
The indefatigable Aleem Dar, a veteran of over one hundred one day internationals and fifty Test match appearances to his name, and with the the honour of officiating two World Cup Finals, remains an object of pride for Pakistanis and Pakistani fans round the globe. With a career that would take a lifetime for most to achieve, for Pakistan and indeed the world's most unshakable umpire, the journey has only just begun.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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