After his team was knocked out in a taped-ball cricket tournament, Rabiul Hoque was requested by the event organiser and his colleague at school to stand-in as an umpire for the remainder of the competition.
His did well enough to get himself selected to officiate the final in a popular tournament that drew a crowd of over 700 at his hometown in Chittagong, Bangladesh, in 2001.
Hoque made a couple of leg before decisions against his friend’s team and they lost the final. “Although the decisions were spot on, it didn’t go well with the majority of my friend’s team’s supporters,” Hoque said. Only 18 at that time, he was on the receiving end of verbal abuse and threats, and refused to leave the house for a couple of days because out of fear.
It was that experience that made up his mind to pursue umpiring and he enrolled with the Chittagong District Panel Umpires and Scorers Association in 2003.
Hoque started as a scorer for two years and moved to umpiring until he arrived in Abu Dhabi towards the end of 2005.
Recalling his early days in the capital, Hoque said he came across a team training at the Eastern Ring Road Corniche.
Upon inquiry about umpiring opportunities the team directed him to Shahnawaz Hakim, operations manager of Abu Dhabi Cricket Council.
“I enrolled and was lucky to get an opportunity straight away when the council fell short of an umpire,” he said, still remembering his first game standing alongside a senior, Mohammed Ali.
Hoque, 32, has now emerged as one of the bright young umpiring prospects in the UAE and wants to become the leading man in Asia among the Associate nations.
“He’s very ambitious,” Hakim said. “He has spent a lot of time and worked hard to reach this level.”
Hoque has been an umpire in the UAE now for nearly a decade. He received his Level 2 certificate from the Asian Cricket Council in 2013 and has stood in several International Cricket Council events.
He is among the top three umpires in the country along with Iftikhar Ali and Akbar Khan nominated to the Associate and Affiliate Panel by the Emirates Cricket Board.
This is to allow member countries to appoint home umpires as per the requirements of the ICC.
“He’s an enthusiastic and hard-working chap and his work is being appreciated by the ICC,” said Mazhar Khan, the ECB administrator.
Hoque’s goal is to follow in the path of Buddhi Pradhan of Nepal and Sarika Prasad of Singapore. Both are in the top rung as leading and long serving umpires among the Associate members in Asia.
He has already taken his first step forward, making his international debut in the first of the two Twenty20 matches between the UAE and Ireland at Zayed Cricket Stadium last week. The UAE won the match by five runs, their first win over Ireland in 15 years.
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