|| AFP ||
Facing the world's fastest bowlers requires steady nerves and a sure bat, but a top-class cricketer turned Bangladesh's first World Cup umpire said it's a "thick skin" he needs for his new role.
Sharfuddoula Ibne Shahid, set to become the first Bangladeshi to umpire a World Cup match, said his breakthrough appointment was due to years of facing negative commentary with quiet determination.
"We are criticised unduly most of the time... we have to have a thick skin, that's what I developed," 46-year-old Sharfuddoula told AFP, ahead of travelling to India for the World Cup that opens on October 5.
"I always maintained a low profile... I knew that my time would come," he added.
Umpiring in Bangladesh has long been an often deeply controversial side of cricket.
Sharfuddoula said umpiring a home game was "not easy" in a country where emotion can get the better of facts.
"There is a lot of pressure, everybody is obsessed with our cricketers," he said. "No one bothers about the umpires. That's the biggest challenge."
Home crowd spectators in the cricket-mad nation "don't take it easily" when he has had to take decisions against Bangladeshi players.
"We are criticised unduly," he said.
"If umpires are not unduly criticised, if reward is given when it is due, that will change Bangladesh cricket and cricketers as well," he added.
In the past, Bangladesh umpires have made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
In one notorious case in 2017, authorities banned bowler Sujon Mahmud for 10 years after he delivered a succession of wides and no-balls to concede 92 runs to deliberately lose a domestic club match.
His team said it was done to protest what they called biased umpiring.
In July, India's women's cricket captain Harmanpreet Kaur was banned for two matches for her verbal swipe at umpires and on-field behaviour against Bangladesh.
- 'Privileged and honoured' -
Off-spinner Sharfuddoula was forced to end his first-class career after just one season in 2001 due to a back injury, and joined the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) as its cricket operations manager.
He quit the BCB job to become an umpire in 2007, and has since stood in nine Tests, 54 one-day internationals and 43 Twenty20 internationals.
Sharfuddoula has been named as fourth umpire for the World Cup opening match between England and New Zealand at the more than 130,000-capacity mega-stadium in Ahmedabad next Thursday.
He is also the on-field umpire for five matches, including between five-time champions Australia and New Zealand at Dharamsala on October 28.
"Whenever you represent your country that brings an honour, I feel," he said.
"Being the first Bangladeshi to officiate in the World Cup, I have the same feeling. I hope it will not be the last, but first of many".
Sharfuddoula said his appointment would help umpires from his country get the attention they deserved.
The country has yet to see any of its umpires on the elite panel of the International Cricket Council, despite achieving Test status in 2000.
"We started playing Test cricket, there was a perception that umpires would come from overseas and we would play supporting roles. That has changed," he said.
"We now have a good bunch of international umpires. I hope many more umpires will come out, and they will do not only the World Cup but many other tournaments.
"I feel privileged and honoured to be part of the elite umpires and match umpires group in a flagship tournament," he said.