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An umpiring path less travelled

The 41-year-old Paul Baldwin has taken a unique pathway in his aspiration to join the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Umpires

An umpiring path less travelled - Cricket News
Paul Baldwin (2nd R) make a pitch inspection ahead of the Ireland against Netherlands ICC World Twenty20 Cup final Qualifier at the Stormont Cricket grounds in Belfast.

Last week the ECB announced its First Class Umpires’ Full List for the 2015 season. Amongst the names of established match officials was the name of one Paul Baldwin.

The 41-year-old has taken a unique pathway in his aspiration to join the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Umpires. This promotion is the next step in the journey.

“That’s the goal”, Baldwin reflected following his recent elevation, “but there is certainly a lot of hard work that needs to be done if I am to accomplish that.

 “I have always had an interest in cricket, but when I first started out umpiring, I never expected things to progress to the point where I would be appointed by the ECB or the ICC. Some people set out with the aspiration to rise through the ranks. But I just wanted to umpire.

“I worked for 17 years for the British Armed Forces in a Public Relations role, based out of Germany, and had officiated in a few games at club and schools levels and after a time I started to do it a bit more regularly.

“Having officiated at the ICC Trophy in Canada in 2001, a year later I was selected for the ICC European Championships, which were being held in Belfast.  For the next few years it was all about working hard and picking up experience. In 2005 I was selected on the ICC’s Associate and Affiliate Panel and a year later, I was appointed to my first full ODI between Scotland and Ireland in Ayr. It was a massive step up in standard.

 “I was advised by the ICC at the time that the best way of progressing my career was to through working with a Full Member country so it was a bit of a leap of faith at the time but one I’m glad that I have taken. 

“When I returned to the UK from Germany in 2009, I did a season of local league and schools matches and the ECB, and special thanks to Chris Kelly for his support, kindly invited me to umpire in County Cricket 2nd XI games. 

“A year later I was offered the opportunity to apply for the First Class Reserve List and I then realized that I could make umpiring my career.

“I have loved every minute of the journey to date; the experiences of travelling and meeting new people from different cultures in a sport that you’re passionate about.”

For the ICC’s Senior Umpires & Referees Manager, Vince van der Bijl, Baldwin’s story is one that he would like to see repeated. “Paul Baldwin’s selection to the ECB is significant for the Associate and Affiliate (A&A) match officiating fraternity as it demonstrates the possibilities and opportunities that can be taken by an A&A panel umpire who is keen to make a professional career from umpiring and have their sights set on the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Umpires.

“From 2005, Paul Baldwin was considered one of the best ICC A&A panel umpires. The A&A panel was created principally to officiate ODIs and T20Is between Associate countries, in the Intercontinental Cup matches and certain ICC divisional tournaments. 

“While it is possible in the regulations to move from the A&A panel to the Elite panel, practically it is highly unlikely as an umpire will need to umpire professionally in a highly competitive cricket environment to gain the requisite experience and show his skills. That route, in reality, would need to be through a Full Member country, which Paul realised and his move to England from Germany precipitated just that. 

“The global match officiating community opens its arms to all those dedicated to match refereeing or umpiring, and in this case the ECB who gave Paul the opportunity to join the ranks of the ECB Reserve Umpire panel, recognising his skills and dedication. Now Paul has been promoted to the top first class panel. We are delighted with his selection and wish him well as he begins the next phase of his umpiring career.”

Surrey born Baldwin is excited about the future but is acutely aware that this is but the next step on his journey.

 “The path I chose is an unconventional one. I have been asked whether it has been a disadvantage not having a playing career behind me, but I take the view that I have gained an awful lot of experience working at many local levels. You can be working with an umpire at club level one week and a professional colleague the next and it’s a challenge that I’m relishing. 

“Like so many umpires I would one day love to make the ICC Elite Panel, but I’m more focused on my short-term and achievable goals; to work hard and consolidate my position with the ECB.”

It is an approach that is standing Baldwin in good stead and the journey continues.

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