South Asian umpires to officiate Weber WBBL Matches in historic move

The 2023/24 cricket season is set to witness a historic moment in the world of cricket as four Indian, three Pakistani, and one Sri Lankan heritage umpires have been appointed to officiate Weber Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) matches.

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Four Indian, three Pakistani, and one Sri Lankan heritage umpires have been appointed to officiate Weber Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) matches for the 2023/24 cricket season, a historic moment in promoting diversity and inclusivity in cricket officiating.

Cricket Australia recently announced the list of match officials for the upcoming season, with a noteworthy eight out of 35 members of the State and Territory Umpire Panels (STUP) for the 2023/24 season having South Asian family heritage. This reflects a significant increase in representation and diversity in the cricket officiating community.

4 Indian, 3 Pakistani and 1 Sri Lankan heritage umpire to officiate Weber WBBL matches
Photo: Cricket Australia

The eight umpires representing South Asian heritage are Dinusha Bandara from Sri Lanka, Syed Humayun, Ahmad Khan and Muhammad Qureshi from Pakistan, and Sharad Patel, Daval Bhatt, Harsimran Singh, and Gaurav Bawa from India. This diverse group of umpires will not only be a part of the Weber WBBL but will also officiate in various other Cricket Australia competitions, including the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL), Toyota Second XI, CA Underage National Championships, and serve as Fourth Umpires in the KFC Big Bash League.

One of the South Asian heritage umpires, Sharad Patel, shared his journey to becoming an umpire, highlighting his deep passion for cricket from a young age.

“When I was a kid, my dad used to obviously love sports, and like most South Asian families, they loved their cricket. And that’s how I got into cricket at a young age. And as I got older, I had competing priorities with full-time work and full-time uni,” he said.

Patel explained that despite pursuing a career outside cricket, his love for the game remained strong. He decided to explore other avenues to stay involved, leading him to take up umpiring. Patel’s journey started in lower-grade cricket, where he balanced playing on Saturdays and umpiring women’s matches on Sundays. His involvement with Cricket New South Wales and the Umpire Association, under the guidance of Darren Gujar, a former first-class umpire with Cricket Australia, helped him progress through the ranks.

As Patel’s umpiring career took off, he continued to work in a dual career, maintaining a role as a project manager and IT business analyst alongside his umpiring commitments. He moved to Australia at a young age and has established himself as a respected figure in the Australian cricket umpiring community.

When asked about the mindset of an umpire and how it varies across different formats of the game, Patel emphasized the importance of maintaining a consistent process and routine. He said, “I don’t think it changes regardless of which format of the game you’re doing. I think it’s just about maintaining that process and that high-performance aspect to continuously improve at what you’re doing.”

Addressing the significance of diversity among umpires, Patel remarked, “I don’t think it makes a difference. At the end of the day, I think we’re all very passionate supporters and fans of the game as umpires. And not just diversity in terms of culture. There’s a range in age, every walk of life, gender, and life experiences everyone brings to the table is different.”

As these South Asian heritage umpires prepare to make their mark on the Weber WBBL and other cricket competitions, their inclusion reflects a more inclusive and diverse future for cricket officiating in Australia. Cricket Australia has congratulated all match officials on their respective appointments, recognizing the importance of promoting diversity in the sport. The addition of these umpires is a step towards making cricket accessible and inclusive for everyone, regardless of their background.

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