Cricket umpires across India are struggling to make ends meet as matches and tournaments are suspended due to lockdowns imposed due to Covid-19.
“All tournaments have been suspended and I have been sitting at home for the past two months. April, May and June usually see a lot of school tournaments, but nothing is happening this year. For the second year running, my earnings have dropped,” Sanjay Gupta, an umpire from Pune, informed The Observer.
Surya Sampath, an umpire who officiates in Chennai, said: “How will I get work if all tournaments have been cancelled? I do not work anywhere else and I am unemployed at the moment.”
The impact of suspension of matches has been less on umpires who do part-time work or have other sources of income.
“I am lucky I have a job with an MNC. Since I’m not getting work as an umpire, my earning has dropped by approximately 25%,” said Gajendra D.R., an umpire in Bengaluru.
Nibhrit Vij from Hyderabad said: “I only umpired on the weekends. I have another job, so I have not been affected that badly.”
Umpires who were looking to appear for accreditation of various cricket boards have also been impacted as the exams for the same have been deferred.
“I need to give the exams of the district cricket association. By doing that, I’ll be able to officiate in all district matches. But because of the pandemic, the exams have been postponed till June,” said Sampath.
Gajendra shared a similar story. “I want to become a full-time umpire. I had planned to give the KSCA exams this year, but no notification has been released till now.”
Facing a financial crunch, the umpires have turned towards state associations to lend them a hand during the pandemic.
“I had hoped that Pune’s district cricket association would help me, but no one has come forward and helped me,” said Gupta from Pune.
Cricket boards across the country have had varied responses to these demands. While a few boards have extended some sort of financial help to umpires, others have not.
“We do not have umpires employed with us under contracts. We have no panel of umpires. Therefore, we could not help anyone who needed help in Chandigarh,” said Manjit Singh, head of operations, Union Territory Cricket Association.
The situation is a little better in Karnataka. The Association of Cricket Umpires Karnataka has successfully implemented schemes to help its members.
K. Murugasundaram, treasurer of the Association of Cricket Umpires Karnataka, informed The Observer: “We extended interest-free loans to anyone who needed monetary help. These loans will be repaid only once the state sees a full domestic season.”
The Karnataka State Cricket Association had also extended loans to umpires who needed financial help.
Apart from cricket associations, veteran umpires have also come together and created a pool of funds to help other umpires.
Former international and ICC umpire Shahvir Tarapore said: “Me and a few other senior retired umpires got together and extended financial help to those who were struggling with bills. We also helped other match officials like scorers. I know a lot of umpires who have taken up such initiatives in their states.”
Most cricket boards have started online training for umpires to help them upgrade their skill sets during the pandemic. Umpires across the country are hoping for financial remedies till the normal playing season resumes.