THE death of Alcwyn Jenkins during a club league match in Swansea last July has emphasised the importance of safety while umpiring and the need for the upmost concentration.
Umpires have been severely injured by powerful shots standing at the bowler's end or at square-leg, but throw-ins can be equally dangerous, as was so devastatingly illustrated during the South Wales Cricket Association match between Swansea and Llangennech at the St Helen's ground.
Recruits at umpiring courses are aware that run-out adjudication should normally be made from the ball side, but they are told that any shot in the V must be treated with special caution and that the official should retreat to the safe side of the stumps. One umpire commented: "Theory is one thing, but it is very easy to forget with only a split second to think. You can easily find yourself on the thrower's side of the stumps and you can then get in the way of a throw to either end."
Jenkins, 72, a much-loved and respected umpire in South Wales, was hit on the back of the head and collapsed instantly. After frantic attempts to revive him, he died in an air ambulance on the way to hospital. The incident happened when the Glamorgan 2nd XI left-hander Rhodri Evans drove a ball from Llangennech off-spinner Stuart Goddard to mid-off and called a quick run to give the strike to his partner Rhodri Lloyd, on 99. Mid-off's attempted throw at the bowler's stumps hit the umpire a fearsome blow while he was looking at the crease. Swansea were captained by the former England A seam bowler Darren Thomas, and among his team-mates were James Harris (Glamorgan) and Daniel Rowe (ex-Leicestershire).
Steve Powell, a veteran member of the Swansea team, said the incident underlined the safety aspect. Umpires must retreat to the safe side as soon as possible even if their view of the stumps is impeded by the bowler or fielder.
Powell, no relation to the Glamorgan batsman Michael, added: "If there is any question of the breaking of the stumps, use the other umpire to confirm it was taken cleanly. Never, ever put yourself in a postion, that you consciously know as a cricketer is in line of the ball. We all know that feeling, so trust your cricketing judgement. If you get the other side there could be and argument you get in the way of anyone backing up and are still in line with the ball, but I feel your peripheral vision would help you ride any blow."
Jenkins' life was remembered at a packed funeral. "Alcwyn as a person was a one off," said Powell. "I toured Australia and New Zealand with him and knew him for 20 years. He was a friend of the players especially as an an umpire and dearly loved because of it. He understood the game far better than many who have encyclopedic knowledge of the laws."
In 1996 umpire Judith West suffered a fracture skull and concussion when she was hit by a drive at the bowler's end during a county second-team one-dayer between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol. A couple of weeks later first class umpire Alan Whitehead was hit on the back of the head by the arm of bowler Scott Boswell during British Universities against Kent in a Benson & Hedges Cup game at Oxford. Whitehead managed to call "dead ball" before collapsing in pain.
Umpires in club cricket have been struck by lightning and have suffered attacks from players or spectators. Fortunately injuries from the ball have been very rare.