An illustrious career

April 9, 2023

During his 23 years as an international umpire, Aleem Dar set several records

An illustrious career

Umpiring is one of the toughest tasks in cricket. Players are never satisfied with the umpire’s decision when they go against them.

The television umpire watches slow-motion replays from different angles and several times, before giving his judgment, but the umpire standing in the ground has to give a verdict from a distance of more than 22 yards and that too immediately after the ball has been delivered.

Pakistani umpires Khizer Hayat, Shakoor Rana, Javed Akhtar, Saleem Badar and Asad Rauf earned a great name in international umpiring, but the fame and respect earned by Aleem Dar remains unmatched.

During the Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) eighth edition, Aleem Dar decided to step down from the ICC Panel after 19 years as one of the Elite Umpires. But he can still officiate matches played at home in Pakistan any time the PCB picks him to do so.

Dar has supervised a record 435 men’s international matches — Tests (144), ODIs (225) and T20I (69).

Pakistan’s Ahsan Raza has been included in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Elite Panel of Umpires for 2023-24. He has officiated in seven Tests, 41 ODIs and 48 T20Is so far.

Aleem Dar made his international debut in 2000. He stood in his first ODI aged 32 and within two years he became the first Pakistani to be appointed to the Elite Panel in 2002.

He officiated at the 2003 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in South Africa. He also stood in the final of the ODI World Cup in 2007 and 2011 and the T20 World Cup in 2010 and 2012.

He was voted the ICC Umpire of the Year for three consecutive years — 2009, 2010 and 2011. He ended Simon Taufel’s run of five successive awards. He was also nominated for the Award in 2005 and 2006, but on both occasions Taufel won the honour.

Aleem Dar created the record of most ODIs as an on-field umpire (225). He surpassed former South African umpire Rudi Koertzen’s record of officiating in 209 ODIs. Former New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden is the third umpire in the 200-ODI club.

In 2019 during a Test between Australia and New Zealand in Perth, Aleem broke former West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor’s record of supervising the most (128) Test matches. Dar has now officiated 132 Tests.

The 54-year-old Dar has also umpired in 69 Twenty20 Internationals.

Dar, who played 17 first-class matches, made his umpiring debut on February 16, 2000, in Pakistan’s ODI against Sri Lanka in Gujranwala, his hometown.

His first Test was between Bangladesh and England in Dhaka in October 2003.

Aleem was inducted into the Elite Panel of Umpires in 2004. He has served as an umpire in five World Cups.

He is one of the most respected umpires in the world for his accurate decisions.

The government of Pakistan recognised his services by bestowing on him the highest civil award, “Pride of Performance”, in 2011. He also received “Sitara-e-Imtiaz” in 2013.

“The World Cup 2011 was a milestone for me as none of my decisions was reversed even after referrals were taken,” he said. “To me the basic requirement for being a successful and respected umpire is honesty.”

About umpiring standards in Pakistan, in an interview a few years back, Aleem lamented the fact that there were quality umpires coming out of India and Sri Lanka, but Pakistan and Bangladesh were far behind.

In 2016, at a ceremony held in honour of Aleem for achieving the milestone of supervising more than 100 Tests, Dar expressed his concerns about the future of Pakistani adjudicators because of insufficient remuneration they get in domestic cricket.

In Pakistan, match fees for umpires are very scanty. While Test and international cricketers in other countries are choosing to become umpires due to better financial packages, the situation in Pakistan is different, he said.

“I would suggest the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) invest more [in umpiring] if it wants to improve cricket and the standard of umpiring in Pakistan,” he said.

“The most important thing is that there are no umpiring institutions in the country. Our first-class cricketers are not coming to this field,” he added.

“I think first of all we need to improve the pay packages for umpires in Pakistan. In England and Australia, pay packages for umpires are so attractive that they don’t even want to come on the ICC elite panel,” he said.

Aleem said the PCB should encourage more former Test and seasoned first-class players to take up umpiring. “But that will only happen when umpiring becomes a well-paid profession in our country,” he said.

Dar wants to set up a specialised academy for umpiring in Pakistan after his retirement.

Aleem has also ventured into the food industry of Pakistan and opened his first restaurant in Lahore a few years back.

In a heart-warming gesture, kind-hearted Aleem Dar offered free food at his restaurant for all those rendered jobless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An illustrious career