International cricket umpire Billy Bowden is another Christian in sport. Here are two articles which talk about his faith and how it helped him get through tough times after getting arthritis at the age of 23.
Before breakfast and travelling to Lord's this morning, Billy Bowden will turn to the scriptures for 15 to 30 minutes' inspiration on how he can lead a better life as a human being as well as an umpire. If he feels he has let himself down the previous day, that length of time will be doubled. His wife, Jenny, will then ensure that he has the relevant cereals and sweeteners to withstand a day in the middle and by 9am he will be assessing the prospects of play with Daryl Harper, his colleague, and all manner of officials. His first Test match at Headquarters will be a long but, he trusts, rewarding five days.
Bowden is officiating in his 47th Test, but his first at Lord's. He will do so in honour of his mother, Jeanette, who died three weeks ago. “I had to make certain I was prepared,” the New Zealander said yesterday. “I did not want to let Daryl down. The first hour will be difficult and there will be a few emotional moments. Mum was everything to me, whether I was involved in sport or academic work, and I am only glad she knew that I would be standing at Lord's.”
Bowden's preparation is meticulous. He was in bed last night by 11pm, ensuring that he had seven hours sleep, in a hotel room away from the traffic. He dislikes the taste of alcohol and drinks up to five 300ml bottles of water during a day's play. He eschews coffee, cola or any other form of caffeine. Definitely no Red Bull - “I am not K.P., I am hyper enough already” - and he will not have any liquids between 10.30am and the start of play, so that he does not have to go off the field to the lavatory. Superstitions? “None. I have my Christian faith to keep me strong,” he said.
Bowden's Christian beliefs, hidden in part beneath his sense of theatricality, give him the capacity to forgive just about everything and everyone on the pitch. His father, Marcus, is a clergyman and he does not dislike any cricketer - he simply grades them all in degrees of niceness, with Adam Gilchrist at the top. “I said to him that if he ever let me down, I would retire from Test cricket,” Bowden said. “I have never got into that situation with any other player. I believed in him because he earned my respect.”
Billy Bowden is a member of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Umpires and Match Referees, sponsored by Emirates Airline - an official ICC partner.
Official dance moves
He is the umpire from New Zealand whose eccentric style of signals, such as a crooked finger for giving batsmen out, has made him famous. Here is The Times' six-step guide to how to do the Funky Bowden.
Step one: The dismissal Also known as “The Crooked Finger Of Doom”. Raise your right hand and extend the index finger with the tip turned at 90 degrees from the second knuckle.
Step two: The four Do a strutting walk, swinging your hips and sliding your right hand from side to side as if brushing crumbs off a table with the right side of your palm.
Step three: The six Start low, then gradually extend your body upwards, hopping on your left leg, right leg in front of you. Bring your hands above your head, leaning back as you do so, with crooked fingers pointing towards the sky.
Step four: The wide ball Stretch both arms out to the side, using jerking movements, with your thumb and last three fingers curled into a fist and the index finger extended, the tip pointing slightly downwards. Looks a bit like a vulture spreading its wings.
Step five: The television replay Cross your hands in front of your face, then draw them sharply apart, dropping them straight down and bringing them back in front of each other again, ending by twice crossing your hands at the bottom of the rectangle.
Step six: The drinks break Form your thumbs and forefingers into two “C” shapes, about six inches apart, tilt your head well back and mime pouring water from a flask down your throat.
First things first. My real name is Brent but at school I was known as Billy, as in Billy the Kid or Billy Bunter, the latter because I was always eating and am lucky to be the sort of person who can eat like a horse and stay slim. The nickname stuck although my wife Jenny tends to call me Brent at home, especially if I go that one step too far!
Secondly, I had aspirations to go all the way as a player. I was holding a cricket bat at five years of age and dreamt of wearing the silver fern. By the age of 23 I had made it to Auckland's first team squad as a middle order batsman and off-spinner, a genuine all-rounder. But then arthritis struck, and my whole life changed.
It came out of nowhere. Literally, within days of having an aching body, it was attacking my left wrist, my elbows, one hand and my fingers. Arthritis is not a death sentence, but it is a life-term. I'm a million miles better than I was during the worst period, some five years between 1986 and 1991 when I was taking so many pain-killing drugs, but it is still there, and it still causes me pain.
When I was first diagnosed it was a terrible shock. You don’t expect to contract arthritis at that age. My reaction was positive, though. Aided by my Christian faith I knew I had to get up from the floor and deal with it. I had rheumatoid-osteoarthritis and that meant I had a lot of hard yards ahead of me. I lost most of my ability as a cricketer and when I knew I wouldn't be able to give 100% I had to give it up. But I remained passionate about the sport, and I knew New Zealand cricket at that time was looking for young umpires. As one door shut, another door opened.
In 1989-1990 I started umpiring. Six years later I officiated in my first ODI and then, three years after that, in 2000, my first test match, which was Australia v New Zealand. People always want to know where my rather unique signals derived from. The answer is a mixture of circumstance and my affliction. I'd been asked to umpire a game of "Max" cricket between New Zealand and England in 1997 at the Mount Smart stadium in Auckland. This was the fore-runner to Twenty-20 and Martin Crowe, the former Kiwi player who had put it all together, asked me to my let hair down in keeping with the atmosphere of the game. I hadn't rehearsed or thought up any of my signs. They just came to me on the night. And so that's where my signal for "6" was born. The crooked finger, delivered when I'm giving someone out, was the result of the arthritis. I can partially straighten it out now, but everyone's got used to the crooked finger, so I've kept it.
The point is, some people think I'm a show pony, or "Bozo the Clown," but those who know me realise I take the game seriously but also that I have a passion for life and live it to the full. Getting arthritis at 23 probably had something to do with that. I love cricket and I deeply respect the role of the umpire, but if I can bring a smile to anyone watching a game as well then that's fine by me. It's a tough job, as the players appreciate, and you do as much as you can in terms of preparation to always get it right. But somewhere, in some match, the ball's got your name on it and there's nothing you can do. Players may not be happy at the time if an error is made, but they respect the umpires all the same, and that's how it should be. By the way, I'm never happy when I get it wrong, either. All I can do is to be the best I can be, try hard to ensure it is a rare occurrence.