If you ask any former cricketer what is the best job in cricket, the answer nine times out of ten would be being a television commentator. Former cricketers and the occasional non-cricketer shuttle across the world sitting in the best seats at the grounds and are paid to talk about the game they love.
In the game of cricket there are all kinds of jobs – match referees, umpires, players, coaches, physio, masseur, trainer, computer analyst – the list is endless as it is subjective. The most unrewarding of them all is the role of the scorer.
The scorer at a cricket match plays an integral part. No game of cricket which is to be regarded as a serious contest may be played without the services of two scorers. Cricket is mostly about records, about statistics, which are probably more important than in any other sport. The MCC Official Laws of Cricket makes it mandatory to appoint two people at cricket matches, whose responsibility is to establish an accurate record of the proceedings for that particular cricket match for posterity as envisaged in Laws (4) and (21). Scoring in fact is an art, it is a science that needs to be learnt, periodically refreshed and constantly put into practice with dedication, since it is a tough professional job where there cannot be a margin for any error.
It is the scorer who keeps the world informed of what’s happening in cricket. Without his figures nobody would know the result of a match or who scored or who took wickets. A cricket match cannot be complete without a set of scorers because it is they who help the umpires to run the game smoothly.
The umpire will be the sole judge of what happens on the field but he requires the assistance of the scorer to acknowledge the signals that he gives from the middle to be recorded in detailed form in a scorebook.
It is the scorer that journalists go after for figures and stats at a cricket match to enliven their copy or to at times reconfirm any incident that may have escaped their attention until of course in the modern era where television replays are there for everyone to see and make their own judgements.
From the moment the first ball is bowled till the end of play the scorer is the one who has to be quite attentive to each and every ball bowled during the day barring of course the two umpires in the middle. However the rewards for such patience, dedication and commitment sad to say, is very miserly when compared to the facilities and financial rewards match referees, umpires and a television commentator receives.
This is one area which the International Cricket Council (ICC), the world governing body for cricket has failed to address or rather overtly overlooked. As much as the match referees and umpires the scorer too plays an important role in a cricket match, but sadly it is not the case only with the ICC but with many Cricket Boards across the world who consider the scorer as something of a Mr Nobody. They are the most forgotten breed and the least important when it comes to tamashas and occasions of such nature – their names hardly make the list of invitees.
Last week we heard the sad news of the death of a former distinguished scorer who had yielded yeoman service to the game for 35 years Faleel Keyath. He and his wife found it extremely difficult to make ends meet with their meager salary and he died almost in poverty surviving his final days on the donations given by his relatives. Keyath was a dedicated scorer whose profession was acknowledged by every journalist who went to him for scores. Apart from scoring for top clubs like Moors SC and Bloomfield he was also an international scorer scoring in matches of the 1996 Cricket World Cup. He was financially stable as long as his eyesight was good but once he was forced to quit the profession he gradually became a forgotten man.
The NCC’s Claude de Silva is another case in point. He too was a loyal and trusted scorer with the club for many years and like Keyath had scored at international matches that included the inaugural Test between Sri Lanka and England at the P Sara Oval in 1982. Today he is spending the twilight years of his life at a Home for the Elders institution.
This has been the sad story of several scorers in Sri Lanka who have simply faded into oblivion and never heard of once they are out of the scene of activity.
The Sri Lanka Cricket Scorers Association formed in 2000 and with a membership of 74 full members and 150 affiliate members is trying its best to assist the present generation of scorers to ensure they don’t suffer the fate of their predecessors. They have a welfare fund which is operative and that is used to assist scorers in need.