For those who remember Test cricket in England in the 1980s, David Shepherd was a pivotal figure in our minds. He stood in 92 Test matches and 172 One-day Internationals. He died yesterday of cancer, at age 68.
Shepherd was a man of cricketing eccentricity who, once past his time, retired relatively quietly in contrast with his contemporary, the equally eccentric Dickie Bird.
Having served on the international, and later elite, Panels of Test umpires for many years, he retired in 2005 to a warm and thoughtful article of praise from David Foote.
Shepherd’s career as a cricketer began late—he made his Gloucestershire debut at age 25 and scored a century—and he went on to make over 14,000 runs for the county in First-class and One-day games, primarily batting in the middle order, across fifteen years.
On retirement he was quickly elevated to the First-class game, and soon to Test level, making his first appearance at Old Trafford during the 1985 Ashes series.
He was well thought of throughout the game as an umpire, known for his comical hop with the score on Nelson and multiples thereof, but also for his calm decision-making, geniality and good eye for the game. The ICC rewarded his consistently excellent performances by selecting him to umpire in six World Cup tournaments, and appointing him to stand in three Finals.
In 1997, Shepherd was awarded an MBE for services to cricket, and he was made an honorary life member of the MCC in 2006.
In latter years, some felt that his judgement began to lapse slightly—in 2001 he missed several occurrences of wickets being taken when he should have called no-balls for the overstepping of Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq—but the ICC and ECB backed him to continue, and he eventually continued for four more years, before calling it a day in the Test arena in June 2005.
His sense of fair play, often encouraging young players of all nations with a choice comment, or two of praise, and absolute integrity made him a popular figure throughout the game, and it is with sadness that I write as I recall the summer mornings in front of the TV with Shepherd’s rotund figure emerging ahead of the fielders for the start of a new day’s Test cricket.