x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

An umpire with the air of a genial butcher

David Shepherd was an institution in the world of cricket. A player of distinction, he went on to carve a solid career as an umpire.

His superstitious habit of standing on once leg when the score reached 111 never failed to win a cheer from the crowd.
His superstitious habit of standing on once leg when the score reached 111 never failed to win a cheer from the crowd.

David Shepherd, known to all as "Shep", was an institution in the world of cricket. A player of distinction, he went on to carve a solid career as an umpire, presiding at matches from Thailand to Durham, Lords to Melbourne. Celebrated for his sense of fair play, notable for his quirks, he umpired 92 Test matches and 172 one-day internationals. He knew from an early age exactly what he wanted to do, practising his batting and bowling for hours with his brother, Bill. Educated in Barnstaple and Exeter Devon, he was briefly a teacher before becoming a full-time cricketer.

From 1965 until 1979 he played for Gloucestershire, and scored more than 10,000 runs. On one unfortunate occasion he hit the ball so hard it knocked a spectator out. Loyal to his hometown of Instow, north Devon, Shep appeared for the local cricket club and helped his brother run the family post office when his hectic schedule permitted. "Devon is permanently in my nostrils," he once said, and he was always glad to be home after a world tour.

In 1981, Shep's career as a first-class umpire began. He went on to officiate at World Cup finals in 1996, 1999 and 2003. His solid build and ruddy complexion, combined with his umpire's white coat, gave him the air of a genial butcher. His superstitious habit of standing on one leg when the score reached 111, known as a "Nelson" (the name is thought to refer to Lord Nelson's lost eye, arm and, incorrectly, leg), or multiples thereof, which are considered unlucky in the sport, never failed to win a cheer from the crowd.

When the International Cricket Council introduced the first panel of neutral umpires in the 1990s, Shep was among their number. He was awarded an MBE for his services to cricket in 1987 and given a guard of honour by the New Zealand and Australian teams during the series between the two countries in March 2005. In June of that year, he umpired his last Test, West Indies against Pakistan, in Kingston, Jamaica.

On his retirement, cricket's loss was theatre's gain, when he took part in the pantomimes staged by the local Women's Institute. David Shepherd was born on December 27, 1940, and died on October 27. He is survived by his wife. * The National