Umpire French officiates prestigious MPS India Celestial Trophy on Barns Green tour

The Celestial Trophy
The Celestial Trophy

Local cricket umpire and Broadbridge councillor Matt French has enjoyed a tour of India with Barns Green CC. Here he writes about his experiences in Kerala.

“It was early June, when I heard through the grapevine that Barns Green CC were planning a tour to India in mid-February 2017 so I decided to enquire and found out more about it.

Matt French with colleague A Shivakumar before the second semi final of the Celestial Trophy

Matt French with colleague A Shivakumar before the second semi final of the Celestial Trophy

The tour was organised by Geoffrey Clements who is a club member and regularly works in Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) which is the capital of Kerala state, the furthest south western state in India and well known for its “Backwaters” and rubber industry.

We flew out with Emirates, via Dubai on Thursday, February 17 with 58 people on the tour altogether including families and would return to “Blighty” on Sunday, February 26. There were five days of cricket planned, two games per day, which included two games of Veterans and two games of under-19’s.

All the matches were played at the St Xavier’s College Ground, Thumba. It is a newly established ground in Kerala and has hosted three first-class matches in this year’s Ranji Trophy. The games themselves were rather one-sided to start with as it took time for Barns Green to adjust to the conditions and for the KCA to gauge the standard of Barns Green. However, as the week went on BGCC did improve and managed to win a match. I found the conditions challenging; firstly that I have not umpired an outdoor game since September. Secondly every day the temperatures were 35 plus degrees with high humidity and doing two games of 20 – 25 overs a side each day did require a great deal of stamina.

The pitches were also challenging as, although very green, the ball skidded through and had low bounce.

The highlight for me was to be asked by Kerala Cricket Association to umpire two semi-final matches of MPS India Celestial Trophy, which is the most prestigious club knockout competition in the state. The first fixture was between State Bank of Travancore and AG’s Office Staff Recreation Club. This game was one of the highest quality I have ever had the privilege to umpire all the players had represented Kerala State and 18 of them had played First Class, two had played in the IPL.

It was an incredibly tense match, fast bowling of 85MPH plus and fielders knocking down the stumps from 30 yards long hard hitting and ferocious appealing was all part of the match and kept me very much on my toes. It was a low scoring game with all 20 wickets falling, after setting 140 SBT bowled AGOSRC out for 120 including some magnificent catches on par with any you would see in an IPL match.

The second match was between Muthoot Yamaha Masters Club and Kerala Cricket Association Academy.

This game was equally as intense with The Masters Club setting a small total of 120, the Academy looked on course to win when with 7 wickets down, the non striker was run out, backing up off a free hit after the stumps were smashed out the ground from 30 yards by the mid off fielder, then the opening fast bowler who had just returned, bowled 10 and Jack middle stump and the Academy were all out for 92 off 20.5 overs.

Overall the experience of umpire cricket in a country where everyone is so passionate about the game was fantastic and having the opportunity to umpire a high level trophy matches at the end of my time in India was truly awesome and something I will never forget.

Finally, I would like to thank Barns Green Cricket Club and Kerala Cricket Association for allowing me such an experience."

See full report of tour from Brans Green in next week’s West Sussex County Times