When Pakistan levelled the 2001 two-match series with England by winning the Old Trafford Test, serious mistakes by the umpires Ed Nichols and David Shepherd, were shown to have decided the result. And as Shepherd recounts in his autobiography Shep, the controversy almost drove him out of cricket. TV replays proved that four crucial England wickets fell to no-balls, and Shep was responsible for missing three of them. One of the most popular and recognisable of the elite band of international cricket umpires was publicly castigated for repeatedly making basic mistakes.

I’d like to block out the memory of that final day forever. I was as attentive and conscientious, at least at the “business” end, as I have ever been. So how did I slip up so badly and so publicly?

It’s a question he cannot fully answer, and the truth is that the cameras are now making a compelling case for seriously limiting the power of on-field umpires altogether. It’s an appropriate time then to reflect on life as an endangered species. Shep is essentially a sentimental journey back through his Devon childhood, schooldays and his life as a county cricketer, which brought him naturally to officiating when that career ended. There is a nostalgic turn to much of this chronicle, not least, one suspects, because after 20 years of umpiring–having battled to reach the top–the media and technology surrounding the modern game are undermining his achievement.

Some of these tales from the middle belie his public image as the “dancing umpire”, the jovial man from the West Country. Shepherd is a sharp-eyed, opinionated observer of the game, and gives his verdict on leading figures–both players and umpires, including the likes of Ian Botham, Darren Gough and Dickie Bird–and what he claims is the encroachment of “evil and greed” within his beloved sport. But Shepherd’s tale is sprinkled with genuine humour, and the man who emerges is quirky in the great tradition of cricketing characters. –Alex Hankin

Shep: My autobiography




  1. Jna Boogaard says:

    A charming tale of cricket in England at its best, played by gentlemen in the true spirit of the game, followed by an interesting insight into the life of an international umpire.

    Shep was a legend.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  2. I was disappointed with this book. Factually it is good but Shep does not go into enough depth at any time. Cricket can be contentious and books about it ought to be so also. Making the reader part of what has happened is important when writing and it was difficult to feel part of much in this book. It is short on anecdotes which is uncommon for a cricket book.
    Maybe when he has retired Shep will give us the lowdown, after all he still has to keep his bosses happy and may feel it was better not to be contentious.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  3. Anonymous says:

    David Shepherd – “Shep” – is an amiable fellow and this book oozes with that amiability. That is its charm and its downfall: the book lacks bite.

    It is reflective of the cricket palying career of the man; Shep descibes the ambling bonhomie of the county cricket circuit in the late 1960s and 1970s well enough but his playing career rarely scaled the heights. The few times that it did are poorly conveyed; the legendary Gillette cup semi-final between Gloucestershire and Lancashire at Old Trafford is worthy of a substantial chapter in its own right but is dismissed prosaically in a few pages.

    The problem lies in Shep’s mediocrity as a player: given that there are relatively few on-field exploits to relish, the book needed to be much more about the struggle of a fringe player and though there are glimpses of angst, that amiability always wins through: Shep manages to survive and seems content merely to do so.

    More intresting are Shep’s umpiring tales; there is no doubt that Shep is a world class umpire and has officiated over some of the great players of this era and in some fascinating and controversial games. Sadly the book also fails to do these credit; Shep lacks Dickie Bird’s talent for anecdote and idiosincracy – apart from the famous “hop” accompanying scores of nelson and its multiples.

    The most evocative parts of the book concern Shep’s beloved Instow in North Devon, where he still lives and where he escapes the pressures of international umpiring.

    In all, a disappointing book that lacks form and discipline: Spanton’s editing does not do Shep credit.

    Shep nonetheless comes out of it all as a thoroughly likeable fellow whose integrity stands like a beacon in these troubled times for international cricket.

    If you are seeking an untaxing and charming read, this book is definitely for you.
    Rating: 1 / 5

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