The handling of conflict situations requires special personnel management skills. Animosity on the field can arise from two sources – player vs player or player vs umpire.
Player vs player – in this situation it is very often wise to allow the players to have their say so that both know how they feel about each other. By jumping in too quickly here the umpire will only incur the wrath of both players. They will be intent on having their say anyway – but the umpire in control will allow it for a short time only and then step in with words like “You’ve made your feelings clear now let’s get on with the game”.
Some umpires have a dislike for getting involved whilst others may step in too quickly. If either of these paths is chosen, the umpire will quickly lose the respect of the players. A few important matters need to be considered. These include:
Never react too quickly. A disappointed bowler needs a little time to cool down. If the incident occurs during an over, consider waiting until the over is completed before saying anything. An astute Captain will realize his bowlers cannot perform to their optimum if they are rattled and will quite often speak to the player. If this happens, wait to see if it produces the desired effect. If not, you should have a quiet word saying something like “Come on mate, don’t let things get too heated out here”. This is a non-threatening way of defusing a potential problem further into the match. If the bowler shows no interest in improving his behaviour, involve the Captain immediately and request him to take action.
Player vs umpire. Often the fielding team will feel aggrieved over a decision. To show that the umpire is in control and of good temperament, he should stand by his decision and reject any feelings of guilt. You may need to show you are in control by saying, “It’s obvious we disagree on what has happened but the decision has been made so let’s get on with the game”. If an error has been made, umpires must never try to even up as two mistakes over the one incident leads to a loss of respect.
Player Conduct Reports. In the first instance, request the Captain to control his players in accordance with The Spirit of Cricket. Should you need to speak to a player, never walk towards him in an aggressive manner or point fingers in an animated way. Always involve the Captain and your fellow umpire so that all concerned will know what was said. Any reports emanating must be made together with your colleague even if you have not heard what was said. You will know by the reaction of the player that there was a problem and your input into the report will be crucial when a hearing takes place.
Any comment or dissent by a player should be evaluated by you and if in your opinion it was a spur of the moment reaction, or of a minor nature, then you should ignore it or handle it in a low key way. However, if you deem it of a serious nature, or if the player’s behaviour was abusive or intimidatory towards you, then deal with it in accordance with Law 42.18.
Umpires must expect, due to the nature of their decision-making role, (i.e. making decisions that have implications for others), that conflict or dissent will occur at times. Umpires must not be daunted by this. Rather they should have developed strategies to enable them to meet such a challenge in a positive and confident manner.
Never think that being an umpire gives you immunity from having to take a little criticism. It’s part of umpiring so plan on it happening. Successful umpires know how much to take before acting under the code of conduct.