Sharfuddoula Ibne Shahid, a former top-class cricketer who is set to become the first Bangladeshi umpire in a World Cup match, has attributed his historic appointment to the "thick skin" he developed over the years in the face of relentless criticism.
Ahead of the ICC World Cup opening on October 5, Sharfuddoula, aged 46, revealed that the challenging world of cricket umpiring in Bangladesh prepared him for this moment, according to AFP.
"We are criticised unduly most of the time... we have to have a thick skin, that’s what I developed," said Sharfuddoula, reflecting on the harsh scrutiny umpires face in Bangladesh, where emotions often run high.
Umpiring in Bangladesh has been marred by controversy in the past, with spectators and players alike displaying strong reactions to decisions against their home team. Sharfuddoula emphasised the need for fairness, saying, "If umpires are not unduly criticised, if reward is given when it is due, that will change Bangladesh cricket and cricketers as well."
In his journey to the World Cup, Sharfuddoula transitioned from a cricket player to an umpire in 2007 after a back injury ended his first-class career. Since then, he has officiated in numerous matches, including nine Tests, 54 one-day internationals, and 43 Twenty20 internationals.
Sharfuddoula's historic role as the fourth umpire in the World Cup's opening match between England and New Zealand and as the on-field umpire for five other matches signifies a significant milestone for Bangladeshi cricket umpiring.
Commenting on this achievement, he said, "Being the first Bangladeshi to officiate in the World Cup, I have the same feeling. I hope it will not be the last, but first of many."
Sharfuddoula sees his appointment as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Bangladeshi umpires, who have yet to make it to the elite panel of the International Cricket Council despite Bangladesh achieving Test status in 2000.
"We started playing Test cricket, there was a perception that umpires would come from overseas and we would play supporting roles. That has changed," he remarked.
As Sharfuddoula prepares to take the field in one of cricket's most prestigious tournaments, he expressed his privilege and honour in being part of the elite umpiring group, hoping that his journey will inspire many more umpires from Bangladesh to take up the challenge on the world stage.
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