Slow Death: Memoirs of a Cricket Umpire

Telford Vice reviews
Slow Death: Memoirs of a Cricket Umpire
by Rudi Koertzen with Chris Schoeman
Zebra Press, pb, 225pp, £14.99

To the South African umpire with the slowly raised finger one thing matters more than any other

RUDI Koertzen would not know deviousness if it kicked him in the head. In these pages and in the flesh you feel he would be shocked to discover altruism is not every living soul’s point of departure. Perhaps he also thinks everybody loves cricket, for its own sake, as much as he does.

As a record of the games of which Koertzen was an integral part the book is comprehensive. As an insight into why those matches unfolded the way they did and the drama that punctuated them – we are, after all, dealing with the age of match-fixing and electronic umpiring – it falls short.

Koertzen grew up barefoot and brave on the wide, empty streets of Despatch, a deeply unfashionable town in the Eastern Cape. The future custodian of the laws of the game never amounted to much as a bowler because of what he himself describes as a “suspect action”.

He had to find another way in. “When I started umpiring in 1981, I did it just so that I could be involved with the game that I love,” he says.

Koertzen lays bare his character when he writes that father “passed away in 1987, at a time when I was standing in my inaugural first-class match. It was a game between Eastern Province and Free State, and Free State had a strong team with three international players in Alan (sic) Lamb, Sylvester Clarke and Alvin Kallicharran in their side.”

Here is a man for whom cricket comes first, second and third. The rest of his life will just have to be happy with what is left over.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer and broadcaster in South Africa

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