MIKE Wolstenholme is well-known in umpiring circles for his knowledge, experience and passion for the game but, most of all, his passion for umpiring.
Mike was umpires co-ordinator for the hugely successful 59th Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week that played out last weekend in the KZN capital and midlands.
Feature image: The 59th Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week umpires team at the officials’ Dinner in the Victoria Hall at Maritzburg College. Mike Wolstenholme at the back, second from left.
The 2018 Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week (OMCW) superbly hosted as always by Maritzburg College, Mike’s task was daunting, to say the least.
With 22 teams and 44 matches over four days, the challenges were multiple. And it wasn’t simply a case of getting personnel on the pitch; Mike is intensely interested in developing the KZN umpires’ pool.
KZN10.com invited Mike to share his thoughts on OMCW 2018 from his unique perspective.
“Thanks Jono, what you are doing to promote KZN schoolboy sport through the medium of KZN10.com and related Facebook posts is wonderful to see and long may it continue.
“Secondly, your approach in highlighting the umpires in your pre-Oppenheimer feature is something we have never seen before, so hats off to you.
“The last 2 years I have been involved with the organising of umpires for this prestigious tournament and the day-to-day appointments.
“I try to engage with coaches to get daily feedback on the performances of our umpires to ensure that any issues that may have cropped up are heard and discussed to ensure we continue to deliver a service that consistently reflects our added-value to the tournament.
“The reason for this is that historically, the coaches themselves either used to umpire or bring their own umpires.
“Of course that could cause obvious unintended problems whereas our umpires have no allegiance to any team and so even if errors are made we are not favouring one team over another.
“This is critical in terms of our performance; that our integrity is never questioned.
“In terms of selection, OMCW is a wonderful opportunity for our umpires to get exposed to a high level of cricket and can be used as a springboard to move on to greater things such as being selected to be part of the CSA Umpires track – working through the various levels and hopefully onto our CSA National Panel.
“Furthermore, what the umpires learn throughout the OMCW festival is how to engage at a high level with players and coaches as well as put their skills to the test, which ultimately will deliver a consistent, excellent match performance across our KZN cricket structures. I see this as a win-win.
“I strive to ensure that only the best-qualified umpires get selected with many having their Level 3 qualification and a number already included in CSA structures.
“Added to this are some relatively new umpires who not only have the requisite skill and ability to be part of this marvellous OMCW celebration of top-class schoolboy cricket but who can then go far in their umpiring careers having had the benefit of OMCW as a platform to do just that.
“The last OMCW group are the experienced umpires who have been around a while, doing what they do best – sharing their passion, enthusiasm and skill with the newcomers, which served to promote a well-rounded experience over the four days (Sept 29 – Oct 2).
“The Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week, in my humble opinion, brings together some of the best schoolboy talent that we have in the country and it is indeed an honour and privilege for us as umpires to be invited to be part of the OMCW.
“To digress a little, I well remember my Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Cricket Week in 2002.
“Names such as AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Heino Kuhn, Vaughan van Jaarsveld, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander and Hein le Roux – to name but a few – went on to higher honours.
“In overall terms, it is my firm belief that Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week is on the same level, if not better – in some respects – than Coke Week.
Hosts Maritzburg College take it to another level – to such an extent that everyone wants to be part of this prestigious week.
“Of course, OMCW from an umpiring standpoint does come with challenges, as KZN premier league cricket traditionally starts on the same weekend so the demand for umpires is heavy – particularly on the first 2 days of OMCW – the Saturday and Sunday.
“Last year, where both the Saturday and Sunday were used at club level, this caused a drain on KZN umpiring resources, leaving us well short of the requisite number of officials.
“This year, however, there was some relief in that the premier KZN Coastal club matches were only scheduled on the Sunday.
“Finally, in terms of the OMCW umpire selection criteria, it is vital as co-ordinator that I get the best people available – selected on merit and commitment – where you need to be available for all 4 days or at least 3 of the 4, thus ensuring consistency.
“Also, we must encourage younger umpires to get involved as they are the next generation.
“What was particularly pleasing at this 59th edition of OMCW is the fact that I saw a number of young umpires showing real promise and that is a big plus for the future.
“To sum up, I am indebted to those umpires in KZN who fully commit to OMCW.
“Many actually take leave from work to be involved, but they happily do this well in advance, thus ensuring that they are ready and available to be part of this wonderful OMCW experience.
“In closing, it would be remiss of me not to thank OMCW director and Maritzburg College deputy headmaster Brandon Swart and his team for delivering such an umpire-friendly product.
“Brandon, on behalf of my umpires, a sincere thank you.”
Jono: “Thanks Mike, sometimes we forget how much value our umpires bring to the mix; only referring to them when something contentious is on the table.
“Keep up the great work guys. Believe, me, we do notice and appreciate your essential contribution to what makes KZN10 schoolboy cricket so very special.
“Mike and Team see you at the landmark 60th Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week next year.”