For a nation battling the mosquitoes, the downpour and the gunnysacks, the welcome sight of Aleem Dar beaming with the David Shepherd Trophy in London brought momentary respite to many.
With Pakistan failing to land any other awards at the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) annual event — Wahab Riaz and Azhar Ali were the only two shortlisted despite a respectable performance from others — Dar, donning the smile of a silent performer, held the trophy aloft for the third year running.
Unlike any other award that was given at the ceremony, the ICC Umpire of the Year Award bears the endorsement of all 10 Test captains as well as the governing body’s panel of umpires — a group of stakeholders intimately involved with the game and with decisions made on the field. To have the respect of all captains, of colleagues and of fans — who probably adore the Pakistani more than any current cricketer from the land — and being named the best for three years running, is nothing short of extraordinary.
And it’s not just the cricket world that has recognised the efforts of Dar for he was also awarded the Pride of Performance last year, recognition unknown for umpires of the country.
A humble individual from Jhang, Dar stood in his first One-Day International in the year 2000, quietly working up the ranks ensuring the laws of the game are enforced in an effective and non-controversial manner. His act seems quite ironic, with him coming from a land where rules are, literally, made to be broken. From a land where the size of your car is inversely proportional to the number of rules you need to follow and where law-abiding nationals are frowned upon and law-enforcing officials are splashed upon.
While he was not able to make his name playing the sport, he has certainly done his nation proud supervising it. And unlike most of those who have donned the green cap of Pakistan, Dar knows when to walk out. He has realised he can officiate for a further 20 years but has confirmed he will step down respectably in just seven — before he faces the axe.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2011.