Cricket umpiring royalty paid a visit for a long weekend when Billy Doctrove spent time in Grand Cayman and despite the rainy weather, he showed his skills in a couple of makeshift games at the Jimmy Powell Oval in West Bay.
Appointed by the International Cricket Council’s
Elite Umpire Panel five years ago, Doctrove is one of the most respected officials on the planet. His busy itinerary reflects that.
Doctrove, 56, was here to give a motivational talk and discussion with local umpires, players and coaches on Saturday. He was honoured with a cocktail party on Friday attended by Premier McKeeva Bush and director of sports Collin Anglin. All the top officials in Cayman cricket made time for him, including Theo Cuffy, Courtney Myles, Courtney Young, Sheila Rankine and Sydney Moore.
Overall, Doctrove thoroughly enjoyed his first visit to the Cayman Islands, rain not withstanding. “My visit to the Cayman Islands was really unbelievable,” he said on Sunday. “I had a wonderful time, both my wife, Antonillia, and myself. In particular, the cricket people here have made us feel very warm and welcome. Cayman is seen as a cricket backwater but I changed my mind a few years ago about it being that and made my mind to come eventually. An invitation came in July and I immediately agreed because I knew they had made a lot of progress in the past 15 to 20 years and I really wanted to play my part and make my contribution.
“I was really impressed with the work that has been done here. Cayman may be a backwater but I come from Dominica which has also been considered a backwater. Because we didn’t have a facility to accommodate international cricket we were always considered a backwater but now with the building of Windsor Park stadium in Roseau we now have international cricket and have the best crowds throughout the Caribbean.
“We have made a change and I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here and make my contribution to cricket. I can guarantee that I will be here again in the not too distant future.
“In Dominica, because of our hosting of international games there is an increase in interest but it is not really flourishing. I hope that the administrators can continue doing what they’re doing and make the game even more appealing and attractive to young Dominicans.”
Doctrove was involved in sport from an early age growing up in Goodwill playing cricket for Heineken Sails Sports Club in Roseau, mainly as a batsman and occasional bowler. He was also an international standard referee in football. A Liverpool supporter, his nickname is Toshack after the legendary Reds striker John Toshack.
Doctrove joined the Dominica Umpires Association in 1975 when still a teenager but didn’t officiate in his initial first-class game until 1991 between the Windward Islands and Jamaica. His first international game was in St Vincent between West Indies and England. His first Test match was in 2000, in Antigua, when West Indies took on Pakistan. His progress warranted him becoming an elite umpire in 2006.
“I’ve had a wonderful career with its ups and downs but they’ve been mostly up. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s taught me a lot not only about cricket but people, about countries and about myself and I’ve enjoyed it to the fullest.”
Surely after all his achievements he cannot have much else left ambition wise? “There is always room for improvement, which is what I tell umpires. You have to look at how you have improved every year. When I eventually retire which for sure will be within the next three years I’m hoping that I will further make my contributions to West Indies cricket and helping develop umpires all through the region.”
His toughest time was when officiating at the Oval Test between England and Pakistan when the Pakistanis were alleged to have tampered with the ball. The match was abandoned and headlines transcended sport. There was huge controversy surrounding the ending of the match. Doctrove had wanted to wait and be sure Pakistan were ball tampering before making accusations, but the other umpire, Darrell Hair, insisted on acting immediately. Both umpires caught a lot of flak in the incident.
Doctrove’s character was tested to the limit. “That was a very difficult time in terms of the media exposure and the uncertainty of what was going to happen.
“Due to the prayers of so many people and my own fighting instincts and will to succeed I overcame those difficulties. There are so many more positive things I experienced, thankfully, including being appointed to umpire in the final of the Twenty/20 World Cup in the West Indies. There has been so many memorable occasions and this is what I would like to focus on.”
Expectations of reaching the pinnacle of umpiring was the furthest from his mind as a schoolboy in Dominica. It was almost by default. An umpire didn’t turn up and he filled in for two hours. Doctrove didn’t really enjoy it but must have impressed because he was invited to join the umpires association. And so began a glittering career.
Cayman’s women cricketers gained some benefit of his presence when he was here, as did Ivan Burges, a Greenies player and occasional umpire.
“Doctrove made a favourable impression. His openness, friendliness and genuine love of the game and desire to partake his knowledge to anyone interested in the game was refreshing. I just hope the weather will be better for him next time.”
Doctrove managed to fit in a social evening with Dominicans at the Dog House on Saturday.
That was one of the highlights of his visit. “It went really well,” he said.
“It was nice to meet fellow Dominicans, one or two of whom I knew from years ago. I didn’t realise there were so many in the Cayman Islands. I really enjoyed their company. We shared some information and will be keeping in touch.”