Martin Saggers has spoken of a determination to be true to himself after becoming the sole newcomer on the ECB’s first-class umpires’ panel for 2012.
The former Durham, Kent, Essex and England swing bowler has replaced the recently-retired John Steele on the senior list after two years on the Board’s reserve list.
And the elevation came as something of a “pleasant surprise” for Norfolk-born Saggers, who retired from the game in 2009 after taking 415 first-class wickets and having won three Test caps.
With his strong ties to his adopted county of Kent – he lives on the East Kent coast in Whitstable – Saggers looks likely to emulate his former captain Mark Benson’s stance by preferring to not stand in games involving Kent.
“Initially, for the first two or three seasons at least, the Board won’t allow you to stand in games involving your former club, but after that it’s pretty much down to the individual,” explained Saggers.
“I know Nigel Llong takes Kent games, but at the moment there are still players in the Kent side who played alongside me. I still have a lot of fond memories of the place, so I don’t really see the point in putting myself into a position of pressure where I’m on a hiding to nothing, so to speak, and can’t really win.”
The chances of Saggers becoming cricket umpiring’s next Billy Bowden appear highly unlikely, meanwhile – quirky signalling and whimsical video clips on YouTube simply aren’t the Saggers way.
“I won’t try to model myself on anyone in particular, and the most important thing for me is to just be myself and to manage things out in the middle as calmly as possible,” he added.
“The best way to go about that is to maintain good communication with the players and my umpiring partner throughout the game and just do all you can to get as many of the decisions correct.
“I don’t think I have any quirky mannerisms, or will use anything odd or superstitious to count the over with. I remember packing my kit up ahead of my first game two seasons back when I realised I had nothing to count with.
“I’d been playing KerPlunk with my young son earlier in the day, so I went back into the box, raided six marbles and have been using them ever since.”
As for the long-term future, Saggers has ambitions to win promotion on to the ICC’s Emirates Elite Panel, but appreciates he will need to impress for quite a while working at the county ‘coal-face’ first.
“My immediate target is to do a good job next summer and to enjoy it,” he said. “Some ex-players get a real buzz out of coaching, as I do when I’m working with the youngsters at Kent. Other ex-players go off and work in the media, but for me you can’t beat the day-to-day involvement with the county game that being an umpire gives you.
“Of course, I’d love to stand in a Test match one day and the dream would be a Boxing Day Test at Melbourne. Sadly, as things stand at the moment, it couldn’t be an Ashes game between Australia and England, but Australia versus South Africa would certainly test my nerves.”