Umpire (cricket)

An umpire in cricket is a person who has the authority to make decisions on the cricket field. Besides making decisions about legality of delivery, appeals for wickets and general conduct of the game in legal manner, the umpire also keeps a record of the deliveries and announces the completion of an over. Traditionally, all professional matches have had two umpires on the field, one standing at the end opposite the striking batsman's end (behind the stumps) and one at square leg. While on field, this continues to be so, there are now a number of off-field umpires as well. The third umpire in cricket is a special umpire who has the task of monitoring the game on television and is referred to by the umpire in the middle at his/her discretion. There may also be fourth and fifth umpires whose task is also to help in the conducting of the game in a proper and legal manner. These umpires are also replacements for the umpires in the middle if required.

Umpires are sometimes jokingly referred to as the men in white (usually umpires wear long white coats), or other less affectionate terms.

Table of contents
1 Positions
2 Decisions and signals
3 List of famous umpires


When a ball is being bowled, one umpire (the bowler's end umpire) stands behind the stumps at the non-striker's end (that is, the end from which the ball is being bowled), which gives him a view straight down the pitch. The other (the striker's end umpire) takes the position that he feels gives him the best view of the play. Through long tradition, this is usually square leg - in line with the stumps and a few yards to the batsman's leg side - hence he is sometimes known as the square leg umpire. However, if a fielder takes up position at square leg or somewhere so as to block his view, then the umpire must move somewhere else - typically either a short distance or to point on the opposite side of the batsman.

It is up to the umpires to keep out of the way of both the ball and the players. In particular, if the ball is hit and the players attempt a run, then the umpire behind the stumps will generally retreat to the side, in case the fielding side attempts a run out at that end.

At the end of each over, the two umpires will exchange positions. Because the field switches round between overs, this means they only move a short distance.

Decisions and signals

During play, the umpire behind the stumps makes the decisions, which he mainly indicates using arm movements. Some decisions must be instantaneous, whereas for others he may pause to think or discuss it with the square leg umpire - especially if the latter may have had a better view.

When the ball is in play

These decisions have an important effect on the play and are signalled straight away.


First of all, an umpire will not declare a man out unless asked to, though a batsman may walk if he knows himself to be out; this is nowadays rare, especially in testss and first-class matches. If they think a man is out, the fielding side must appeal, by asking "How's that?" or "How was he?" Appeals are usually shouted loudly enough that the words cannot be made out and may be more similar to a celebration than a question. It has even happened that a player was too busy appealing to stop a ball, and so allowed the batsmen to get extra runs.

The umpire's response, which may take some time, is either to raise his index finger to indicate that the man is out, or to shake his head and say "not out".


Either umpire may declare a ball to be improperly bowled. In practice, the bowler's end umpire generally calls for the bowler overstepping the line and the other for the bowler's arm not being straight. (see the explanation in cricket) The signal is to hold one arm out horizontally and shout "no-ball" or just "no"; the idea being that the batsman is aware of the no-ball's being bowled.


A wide is declared by sticking both arms out horizontally. Note that if the delivery is a no-ball, it cannot also count as a wide.

Dead ball

If the ball is no-longer considered in play, it is a dead ball. An umpire will only signal this, by crossing and uncrossing his wrists below his waist, if he thinks it is necessary to inform the players (if a boundary is scored or a man is out, which both make the ball dead, the players will obviously already know), particularly if he is interrupting play due to an injury or for any other reason.

Signals to scorers

It is important that the scorers note down the play accurately and therefore the appropriate signals will be made by the umpire when the ball is dead. In addition to the following, the umpire repeats signals of dead ball, wide, and no-ball to the scorers.


If a batsman scores four by hitting the ball across the boundary (not by actually running them), the umpire signals this by waving his arm back and forth in front of him. This signal varies a lot between umpires, from two short, restrained, waves finishing with the arm across the chest, to elaborate signals that resemble the conduction of an orchestra.


A six scored by hitting the ball over the boundary is signalled by the umpire raising both hands above his head, often in a celebratory manner; although the umpire is neutral, a six is considered an achievement.


If runs are scored from a bye, the umpire will hold up his open palm.

Leg bye

Leg byes are signalled by the umpire touching his raised knee.

Short run

If one of the batsman turned round without touching the popping crease, then a short run is signalled by the umpire tapping his shoulder with his fingers and one of the runs is not counted.

Television replay

If the umpire is unsure of a "line decision," that is, a run out or stumped decision, he may refer the decision to the Third Umpire, or T.V. Umpire. Also, if the umpire is unsure that a catch was legally held, or if the umpire is unsure that the ball is a four, six, or neither, he may refer the matter to the Third Umpire. The Third Umpire is not used except in international or important domestic matches. The signal to refer a matter is using both hands to mime a T.V. Screen by making a box shape. The option of T.V. umpires is normally used in international matches and important domestic matches only; any league or tournament can either use or not use it as it wishes.

Penalty runs

For extreme misconduct by one team, the umpire may award five penalty runs to the other team. Placing one arm on the opposite shoulder indicates that the penalties are given to the fielding team, but if the umpire taps that shoulder, the penalties are awarded to the fielders.

Last hour

In test cricket and first class cricket, the last hour of the last day of play has special significance. Firstly, there is a minimum number of overs (fifteen in tests and more in first class, depending on the rules of the competition) must be bowled in the last hour. This is to prevent losing teams from wasting the last hour of play, causing a draw. Currently, however, there are minimum over limits during all other times of the match as well. The minimum over limits during the last hour is a matter of the laws of cricket, the other minimums are set by the competition's rules. In any case, the umpire signals the last hour by pointing to his wrist (and the watch on it), which is raised above his head.

Revoke last signal

If the umpire makes an incorrect signal, he may revoke it. The umpire does not cancel a signal simply because he realized that he made an error of judgement. The cancellation is made only if the umpire finds an error of application of the rules, such as, signalling "out" but then realizing that the other umpire signalled a no-ball. Also, an umpire may revoke if heaccidentally signals a four though he intended to signal six. The signal, placing each palm on the opposite shoulder, is very rarely seen.

List of famous umpires

Obviously more to come, and I'm not sure about what to do with the below.

As such it is not a very popular position and as only the most decisive and knowledgeable umpires are ever entrusted with a test match, it is (statistically speaking) far harder to become a test umpire than a test player, with far less financial reward. The heat and inactivity of the umpires role, combined with the statistical quirks of selection may go some way to explaining some of the unusual quirks of those who perform this vital, yet thankless role.

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