Umpires in cricket - how many are there, what are they for?

Within the sport of cricket, the umpire serves as an impartial arbitrator tasked with supervising gameplay in accordance with established laws. As such, they are responsible for monitoring player behavior, documenting the progress of each ball’s delivery, and announcing the conclusion of each over. It is important to make a distinction between the role under consideration and that of an international match umpire, as the latter does not possess the ability to influence the outcome of the game.

In accordance with normative practice, a typical cricket match features a pair of umpires who are tasked with governance: one positioned at the bowler’s end and the other positioned to face the batsman. Contemporary games, similar to Test matches, have the capacity to feature an expanded number of umpires, potentially encompassing a third umpire equipped with video replay access, as well as a fourth umpire assigned to oversee the management of the match ball.

The categorization of cricket umpires by the International Cricket Council (ICC) is carried out under three distinct classifications namely elite, international, and development umpires. Test matches are predominantly monitored by neutral elite umpires, whereas international umpires commonly serve as the third or fourth umpires.

In the realm of professional games, the role of the match referee is to act in conjunction with the umpire by ensuring the adherence to ICC Cricket Code of Conduct, while simultaneously refraining from exerting any form of influence on the outcome of the game. Minor matches are typically officiated by umpires who have undergone professional training.

The majority of customary local matches adhere to conventions by appointing two impartial umpires responsible for enforcing rules. Numerous organizations, such as the ECB Association of Cricket Officials and Cricket Australia, provide training and accreditation opportunities for umpires.

The positions of umpires in cricket

In the sport of bowling, it is customary for an umpire to occupy a position behind the stumps situated at the non-striker’s end, thus affording the umpire an unobstructed and direct line of sight down the pitch. In cricket, the second umpire is known to assume a strategic position which provides them with an optimal vantage point for play observation. As a general rule, this location is at square leg, and the umpire accordingly earns the title of square leg umpire.

The individual officiating the game known as the umpire may relocate their position in the event that their field of vision becomes obstructed, such as by a fielder positioned at square leg or a runner substituting for an injured batsman. There is a possibility that they may relocate towards a position that is situated across from the batsman. The implementation of any such action is transmitted to both batsmen, the captain of the fielding team, and the co-officiating umpire. In the event that the umpire’s line of sight to the popping crease is obstructed by the glare of the setting sun, it may become necessary for them to relocate to the point position.

It is imperative for umpires to abstain from encroaching upon the ball or intermingling with players. As an example, in cricket, when a player attempts to run, the umpire positioned by the stump commonly moves to the side, thereby creating opportunities for potential attempts at running that player out.

The umpires alternate their roles and exchange positions at the conclusion of each over, whereby they relocate a small distance due to the bowler’s end undergoing alternation between overs.

Etymology of Umpire in cricket

The etymology of the term “umpire” can be traced back to the Old French word “nonper,” which connotes a person who acts as an arbitrator in resolving a disagreement between two parties. The term’s conceptual association with impartiality can be inferred from its linguistic roots. The term “noumper” in Middle English was first documented in approximately 1350, while a variant form without the phoneme “n” - known as “owmpere” - was recorded circa 1440. The absence of the letter “n” in the term “umpire” was the result of either a gradual change in language usage or an erroneous separation of the letters “a” and “n,” which led to the emergence of the phrase “an Oumper” in approximately 1475. This, in turn, paved the way for the current designation of “an umpire,” as opposed to the previous form of “a numpire. " The aforementioned term was commonly applied to officials in various sporting disciplines such as football, wherein it has since been superseded by the designation “referee”. Conversely, baseball, among other sports, has continued to employ this terminology.


In summary, the paramount function of a cricket umpire entails vigilant oversight of the game with a view to guaranteeing ethical conduct among the participants. Crucial judgments are executed in accordance with the Laws of Cricket by team members, who are also allocated specific duties based on their respective positional placements on the cricket field. The transformation of the lexical entity “umpire” manifests intriguing linguistic transformations spanning several centuries, underscoring its roots in unbiased and equitable adjudication. The utilization of the aforementioned phrase has been expanded to encompass various other sports, connoting the function of an impartial governing body in upholding the genuineness and authenticity of athletic competitions.

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