With the record of officiating in most Tests already under his belt, the seasoned Pakistani umpire has now gone past South Africa’s Rudi Koertzen in the ODI format
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.
Last week during the ODI series against Zimbabwe in Rawalpindi, Aleem created the record for most ODIs as an on-field umpire. He surpassed former South African umpire Rudi Koertzen’s record of officiating in 209 ODIs. Former New Zealand’s famous umpire Billy Bowden is the third umpire in the 200-ODI club.
Last year during the Test played between Australia and New Zealand in Perth, Aleem had broken former West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor’s record of supervising the most (128) Test matches. Dar has now officiated 132 Tests.
The 52-year-old Dar has also umpired in 46 Twenty20 Internationals, one behind countryman Ahsan Raza’s 47.
Aleem also holds the record for officiating the most (388) international matches.
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.
Interestingly, Dar has never umpired a Test in Pakistan.
He is one of the most respected umpires in the world for his accurate decisions.
In recognition of his consistent outstanding performances, Dar was declared the 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.
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.
In early 2017, there was a rumour that Dar was retiring, but at a news conference at Lahore Press Club, he rejected the speculation. He said he had no intention of retiring as the ICC had no issues with his performance.
“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) to 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.
He has made some recommendations to the PCB to improve the standard of umpiring in Pakistan, including using television footage in domestic matches as a review tool for the officials.
“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 runs two cricket academies in Lahore, one in Bahria Town and the other in Jauhar Town, which helps hearing-impaired children polish their skills. He 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 two years back.
NOTE: All statistics updated till the ODI series against Zimbabwe.