September 19, 2020

T&T’s Wilson poised to straddle biggest stage

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Joel WilsonFrom T&T Guardian

SYDNEY—Fairy tales often don’t come true but try telling that to T&T international cricket umpire Joel Wilson.

He will be the only West Indian match official to stand in the ICC Cricket World Cup which bowled off in Australia and New Zealand yesterday.

The 48-year-old will stand in three matches in the preliminary round as he marks a personal milestone 20 years of umpiring. Fairy tales don’t get much better.

Wilson has described it as an absolute honour to be chosen among the game’s elite to stand in the February 14 to March 29 tournament, undeniably cricket’s greatest showpiece.

“I’m humbled and honoured at the same time to be part of a team of officials that could be considered the best crop in the world at the moment. To be at this World Cup means a lot to me and to west Indian umpires in general,” Wilson told CMC Sports.

“I’m looking forward to my assignments in the tournament. This is, for me, something special and something I worked towards. I’ve been umpiring for 20 years and now after two decades I have been given the opportunity to stand participate in one of the biggest sporting events on Earth.”

“I won’t be worried too much about what is happening around, my job is to do my best in the middle and make the correct and best decisions. I have umpired to empty stadiums and I have umpired to full stadiums, so I have told myself to take it one step at a time, one ball at a time and I know I will enjoy the World Cup.”

Wilson’s first assignment was on Saturday’s opening day in the big contest between hosts Australia and England at the MCG in Melbourne where he acted as the fourth umpire.

His assignments in the middle will be in Canberra when Afghanistan clash with Bangladesh at Munaka Oval on February 18, in Brisbane when Zimbabwe face Pakistan at the Gabba on March 1, and in Tasmania when Sri Lanka take on Scotland on March 11.

Wilson will become the third West Indian to stand in the Cricket World Cup – the other two are legends of umpiring. Jamaican Steve Bucknor proved to be one of the best of all-time becoming the only man to stand in four World Cup finals.

He ended an illustrious career at the top of his game having completed a record 128 Test matches and 181 One-Day Internationals. Billy Doctrove of Dominica stood in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups and ended his career with 38 Test matches, 112 ODIs and 17 T20 Internationals.

Wilson is thrilled by the history he is also making for his country Trinidad and Tobago, and is determined to follow in the footsteps of Bucknor and Doctrove.

“I am the first Trinidadian umpire at the World Cup. We had Michael Ragoonath, who stood in the FIFA Football World Cup and is now a regional match referee in cricket, so I guess from a Trinidad perspective we have something to be proud of with our sporting officials,” Wilson said.

“I watched a lot Bucknor and Doctrove and they have offered me a lot of support. Steve Bucknor is an icon in umpiring and Billy Doctrove did extremely well in his career at the elite level. He (Doctrove) called me to wish me all the best before I left home and that meant a lot to me to get those words of encouragement from a man who knows how it is done at this level.”

Wilson acknowledged that at some stages in his career he felt like quitting but kind words of encouragement from Clyde Cumberbatch, a former international umpire, helped to strengthen his resolve.

“I remember the first day I stood in a match 20 years ago. After that first day I felt like giving up. I promised myself I would not go back,” he recounted.

“I was scheduled to be with a colleague who did not show up and I had to stand at both ends … it was a school game and it was very taxing. That first day was a horror story, I didn’t get a breather, I didn’t have another umpire to talk to, it was a rough initiation, but it ended up being a good eye-opener now that I look back 20 years later.”

He continued: “Then we had classes at the Queen’s Park Oval and I was going to announce during the classes that I was finished with umpiring. Before the classes started, Mr Cumberbatch met me and said ‘I saw you at the weekend and your umpiring was really good’ and that motivated me.

“I didn’t announce my ‘retirement’ to the group,” he added with a laugh.

Wilson is the father of two daughters, one a law student and the other a high school student. He said that their support along with that of his wife and extended family, had been tremendous in his journey.

He also spoke of his close friendship with Gregory Brathwaite, a fellow international umpire.

“I have to thank my wife and family for all their support. My daughters are my biggest fans … I know this will sound unusual to think about it but they watch matches to cheer on the umpire,” he said with a smile.

“Gregory has been a friend for a while now and we discuss cricket and umpiring. There is so much happening in the field of umpiring and we always try to keep up to date with the latest happenings.”

Only four years ago, Wilson was making his international debut in a one-dayer between West Indies and India in Jamaica’s capital Kingston.

Now, 18 ODIs and 16 Twenty20 Internationals later, Wilson is commanding cricket’s biggest stage and continues to be driven by the desire to make a meaningful contribution to the glorious game.

“I never thought 20 years ago when I started that I would reach the World Cup stage. All I really wanted to do was give my best to the game of cricket,” Wilson said.

“It is a wonderful game and a rich part of West Indian history and who we are as a people and all I really wanted to do from the first day was just contribute in a meaningful and professional way to the game.

“My ultimate ambition is to stand in a Test match. I see Test cricket as the ultimate form of the game and I dream of making it all the way to that level.” (CMC)

IMAGE: Joel Wilson

For more on this story go to: http://www.guardian.co.tt/sport/2015-02-15/tt’s-wilson-poised-straddle-biggest-stage

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