Graham BeggGraham Begg is dedicated to cricket but what makes the 40-year-old somewhat different is that he is guaranteed to spend six hours behind the stumps on any given Saturday.

Begg has the tough job of being the man in middle and admits umpiring can be a lonely job at times, but that is the only downside.

“It’s pretty rewarding really, working hard to get every decision right.”

Also making it tough is the fact Begg has really been a one-man band for a few seasons as the only regular local umpire.

This season the load has been lifted after being joined by Les Elliotte, who has moved from Christchurch.

Begg, however, just loves cricket and doesn’t mind the pressure.

Having given playing away at 24 to umpire, he has a few stories to tell, like the day he was a square leg and everyone yelled “catch it”, so he obliged.

“It was just a reaction and when I realised, I dropped it.”

The batsman was given not out.

He has also had to give his representative batsman brother Stephen out a few times, including caught down leg side in a Hawke Cup match.

“He wasn’t happy but admitted he hit that one but he reckons I got it wrong a couple of times.”

Concentration is the key to being an umpire and Begg admits he got it badly wrong once.

“I missed the first ball of an innings as I was distracted and . . . missed a big knick. The batsman went on to score 150 but you can’t give someone out if you didn’t see to or hear it. That one is my nightmare.”

Begg has also been involved in a couple of code of conduct hearing but says the vast majority of players accept decisions.

On the upside is the fact he has been selected for exchange programmes to Palmerston North and to Australia.

Begg stood at the Merv Hughes Oval and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It was a great experience and I would have umpired at the MCG but it conflicted with the Commonwealth Games.”

Begg switched to umpiring because he was frustrated by a decision in a game by a player-umpire.

“The batsman was plumb and afterwards joked he wasn’t out because the ball would have gone under the stumps.”

Begg says that he has thoroughly enjoyed his time adjudicating.

“You have to have a clear head and learn to switch on and off, after the ball has been bowled.

“I tell myself to do it and I am fine spending an afternoon umpiring.”

To recognise the dedication of Begg and others like him New Zealand Cricket is launching a nationwide competition today in search of “New Zealand’s Favourite Local Cricket Umpire”.

The competition calls for people to nominate their favourite amateur umpire.

Communities are encouraged to nominate their favourite local umpire by visiting or getting information from their cricket club.

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