Third Man Cricket » Interview – Neil Bainton, English Umpire : An Expat Cricket Website
Interview – Neil Bainton, English Umpire

Through an old friend of mine who works on Essex Radio, I got a chance to interview a friend of his, who happens to be an umpire in the English Domestic first class cricket leagues.  Neil Bainton was appointed to the list of full-time first class umpires in late 2005, having officiated his first first-class match in 2000 and is now a very fine and well-respected umpire.  Add in, what sets him apart from his peers, that he is one of the few umpires in the game that did not ever play any serious cricket in his time and is basically, just a really nice guy, I thought this might be a very interesting person to interview.  Take a look…


Let’s start with how you first got into cricket.  I believe you are one of the few umpires that did not play professionally.  When did you first realize you enjoyed umpiring?

I started umpiring junior games at Wanstead CC when I was about 18. I was playing in the mens’ lower XIs where most sides didn’t have an umpire, so the players were expected to do it. I used to really enjoy my half hour stint that I would tell the captain to leave me out there for longer.

What was the trigger to become a more serious umpire?  How did you go about becoming professional?

As I was not enjoying the playing too much and was the umpiring, I decided to stop playing and see how far I could progress in the umpiring. Another Essex League club, Gidea Park and Romford CC offered me the chance to umpire for their Saturday 2nd XI and Sunday 1st XI. The Essex League set up an Umpires Panel in 1992, and I was one of the original group invited to join.

How long did it take to qualify and how tough was the process?

I managed to get on the Essex 2nd XI Panel in 1994 at the age of 23, Minor County List in 1996 before being very lucky to be appointed to the ECB Reserve List for the 2000 season.  I did 6 seasons on this list before gaining promotion to the Full First Class List prior to the start of the 2006 season.  So I have now done 8 years on the First Class List, standing in over 100 County Championship games.

Most first-class umpires have already played at first-class level before exchanging their whites for a white coat. Do you feel that you are treated any differently for having taken an alternative route?

As an umpire that had progressed without playing first class cricket, I think at the start, you are tested by the players more than an ex-player. However, once the players see that you know what you are doing, you are quickly accepted and treated no differently from any other umpire.

I believe you are a postman in the Winter?  How are you able to keep that job for the Winter months only?

I work in the winter for Royal Mail, out on deliveries in Braintree in Essex. I usually return to them early in October each year, leaving towards the end of March. I have, what is called a “career break”.  Must look so dodgy as mine is every year between April and September.  The Royal Mail have been brilliant to me. Ok, I work for them at their busy time of year but if any cricket stuff comes up, like meetings etc, then they are happy to release me.

How does your family cope with your travel / Summer schedule..?

Our summer schedule is normally for approx. 90 days of cricket. This will include some 2nd XI matches and any 3rd-Umpire roles.  There can be additional matches such as QF, SF and Finals which are appointed closer to the time of the games.  We are given our appointments in 2 monthly batches, with the first one, for April and May, usually arriving early in March.  At present, it is our own job to book accommodation and claim back any expenses.  It will be interesting to see, with the change in structure to the fixtures for next season, if this means we will be travelling more or less. With 20/20 on a Friday and Championship matches starting on a Sunday, will we be left at the same venue for a week or be travelling from one ground to another..?  We will have to wait and see.

You are from Romford, Essex.  Do they let you umpire Essex games and do you sometimes struggle to be impartial..?

I do get appointed to games involving Essex. This is not a problem. Decisions are made, outs and not outs, as they would be in any other game.

Do you find it tough when umpiring televised games?  Do you watch replays of close decisions you give?  How do you handle when you find out you have got one wrong?

As a first class umpire, we are appointed to games on tv during the season. Of course you don’t want to get decisions wrong in any game but even more so when on tv. If you do get “one wrong”, then you just have to cope with it as best you can. Forget about it and move on to the next ball rather than dwelling on the incident.

Some questions about the game generally…

What do you make of T20?  Do you think it good for the game as a whole?

As far as 20/20 umpiring is concerned, the game happens so quickly that you have to make sure you are concentrating all the time. Bigger crowds make it more difficult to hear the edges at times and the power of the batsmen can make it quite dangerous at times with the ball coming back at you at a rate of knots.

Do you have an opinion on the inclusion (or lack thereof) of developing cricketing countries in global events?

I was lucky to be invited to tour Uganda with the MCC in October. We had 2 weeks there playing games against the Full Ugandan XI, as well as some emerging players and a couple of fixtures against Rwanda.  Fantastic trip.  Good standard of cricket and a joy to be on the field with so many happy faces.  Hopefully this will be the start of many overseas adventures.

Has “DRS” changed the way you make decisions generally?  It seems to me that umpires would have given the batsmen the benefit of the doubt a lot more pre “Hawkeye”..?!

Anything that helps the umpires get decisions correct has got to help. That is what the players want. However you still have to umpire as you have before. You cannot give a decision because you think tv will show it just to be clipping leg stump.

Having officiated often in women’s cricket, how do you think the standard compares with the men’s game? Do you think they should be compared at all, or do you think they are very separate games?

It is very difficult to compare the standards between mens and women’s cricket. I have stood in women’s games since 2000 and now that the ECB are involved, the women’s game has got more professional and the improvements in quality gets better each year. I thoroughly enjoy umpiring the women.

Finally, if you don’t mind a personal question…

Any chance of you furthering your career, maybe to International standard..?  Is that feasible or possible?

It would be great if I could progress further with my umpiring.  It must be every umpires aim when they reach professional level, to then progress to internationals and I am no different.

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