Tim Robinson stood in his first one-day international

Robinson on umpiring: "I occasionally watch the highlights, but not often. You can send yourself mad. And at the end of the day, we all want a good night's sleep"

© Getty Images


'One of the secrets of good umpiring is confidence'

Tim Robinson talks about life as an official, and reminisces about his playing days with England and Nottinghamshire

Interview by Scott Oliver  |  

I was first picked for England because the selectors thought Chris Broad - who had made his debut against West Indies in 1984 - couldn't really play spin. Being the sort of person he was, Broady tried to prove them wrong, tried to dominate against spin, but kept getting out. I was scoring plenty of runs for Notts, so they took me to India instead.

I never really felt cemented in the England team. My bread and butter was county cricket, so I always saw the England stuff as the cherry on the top and never got too far ahead of myself.

I remember playing at Hove for Notts seconds as a 16-year-old. They had Imran Khan and Garth Le Roux opening the bowling. No helmet. I got 60-odd, then Imran hit me on the shoulder and I had to retire hurt. But that's when I decided I was good enough and that's what I wanted to do. Notts offered me summer contracts and I went to university to continue my education.

I did accounting and financial management at Sheffield University, although I never actually played cricket for the university team. They used to keep asking me, but at weekends I used to go and play in the Bassetlaw League.

When I was five we moved to just outside Sheffield. My dad joined Stannington, a traditional Yorkshire club. That's where Geoff Boycott became a big influence on my game, although I never played a proper match, because you had to be ten years old. But messing around playing with my mates or my brother, I was always Geoff Boycott when I was batting.

"My bread and butter was county cricket, so I always saw the England stuff as the cherry on the top and never got too far ahead of myself"

We had lost to Essex in 1985, off the final ball, so to beat them four years later, also off the final ball, when Eddie Hemmings needed to hit John Lever for four, with myself being captain and winning Man of the Match - that would be one of my best days in cricket. I remember reading the local paper on the coach down, which had me as favourite to be top run scorer. I couldn't believe it. People used to say we were a two-man side - [Clive] Rice and [Richard] Hadlee - so it came as a bit of a shock to be picked out. That was probably my best innings for Notts.

Clive was the biggest influence on a lot of us. He was such a positive character. Some of the things he used to say made us look at each other - "What the hell's he going on about?" - but then he usually went out there and did it. He really did lead by example.

I had quite a lot of ups and downs with Derek Randall when I was captain. I was quite methodical, and liked to have a plan for each situation, but you just couldn't rely on him. He had so much natural ability, but you never knew what he was going to do. I left him out a couple of times - the supporters' favourite - so I became a bit of a villain.

Someone once told me I shared the record with Graham Gooch for the most Man-of-the-Match awards in the Benson and Hedges Cup.

We went to the sponsor Cornhill's tent at the close of play at Edgbaston in 1985. I had got a big hundred, Gower had got 200, and right at the end of our innings Botham had got in for 15 minutes. First ball, he hit Craig McDermott into the pavilion. Third ball, another. Me and Gower had put on 330, but all anyone wanted to talk to us about was Botham's 15 minutes at the crease. Just prior to Botham going in, I can remember us taking bets that he could hit his first ball for six. And he did.

Robinson bats in Kanpur, towards the end of a successful Test tour of India

Robinson bats in Kanpur, towards the end of a successful Test tour of India © Adrian Murrell/Allsport

Going out to the West Indies [in 1986], we had beaten India away, beaten Australia, and were cock-a-hoop. I was averaging mid- to late-60s, thinking this Test cricket's a piece of piss. Next thing we know, we've got the West Indies roaring in at us.

We arrived for the World Cup semi-final at the Wankhede on a real turner, made for the Indian spinners, and the day before the game, Graham Gooch didn't really have a net as such; he just had this little Indian lad throwing him balls and he swept every single one. That's all he did for an hour: swept. That's all he did the next day: swept and swept and won us the game.

Gooch could just totally dominate. Physically he was so strong. Technically he was good, no matter who was bowling. He didn't have a weakness, really.

Clive Rice was the ultimate team man, whereas Richard Hadlee was very much an individual. He used to have this cardboard thing in his kitbag, with ten things to think about or do in the game, motivational stuff, and it was I, I, I, I, I. So he wasn't a team player as such, but we knew that if he did those things then we were likely to win.

Derek Randall's running between the wickets was diabolical. He was so quick himself, but his judgement of a run was so poor. One of my early games at Lord's, we were 100-odd for five at lunch, and he had run three of us out. Mike Brearley knocked on our dressing-room door and invited Derek to have lunch with Middlesex.

"Messing around playing with my mates or my brother, I was always Geoff Boycott when I was batting"

I moved down south when I was eight or nine - my dad was a field engineer for Burroughs Computers - and the local club, Dunstable Town, decided to run a youth team. The coach was Pat Feakes, who played a few games for Hampshire. We were all lined up alphabetically - there must have been 50 kids there - and everyone was asked what they did. Almost everyone said they were a batter, so when it got to me, one of the last ones, I thought, 'I'm not going to get in the team here', so I said I was a bowler.

Every umpire's worst fear is making a mistake. I see DRS as a safety net. I wish each team had more reviews - certainly in ODIs. On my international debut, in the very first over [third over], I gave Alastair Cook out lbw to McClenaghan, and I looked up to see him giving it the review sign. Fortunately, I had got it right.

We turned up for the World Cup final in Calcutta, and when we got to the hotel, all the room cards had the Indian players' names on them, but crossed out and with our names handwritten below. I think they expected India to get through.

Leading up to the first Test in Christchurch, his home town [in 1988], Hadlee needed one wicket to equal the world record. It was all about him. He prophesied that it was going to happen at six minutes past 11. There were banners all over the ground about the world record. Broady and I saw him off, and you could see him getting more and more frustrated. He broke down, both physically and mentally. For such a great bowler, it was quite shocking to see. We broke him, basically.

The quickest spell I faced was Patrick Patterson in Jamaica. We didn't get a look at him in the practice games, but we had heard a lot about him - that he had put a few in hospital and stuff like that. We had played a one-day international at Sabina Park just before, when Malcolm Marshall had hit Gatt in the face, and the wicket for the Test match was corrugated: some bounced, some didn't. Not ideal. I opened the batting with Graham Gooch. We were 20-odd for 0 and had seen Marshall and Garner off. Patterson came on first change, up the hill, all muscle and power, with that massive delivery stride showing the sole of his boot, a horrible action to pick up the ball from. It wasn't a great place to be. Even for Goochy.

Robinson raises his bat after bringing up his century against Australia at Edgbaston in 1985:

Robinson raises his bat after bringing up his century against Australia at Edgbaston in 1985: "I was averaging mid- to late-60s [after the Australia series], thinking this Test cricket's a piece of piss" © PA Photos/Getty Images

I look back and feel pretty privileged to have shared a pitch with the likes of that West Indies side. I didn't feel that at the time, mind!

We were soundly beaten at the Wankhede on my debut, basically bowled out by Sivaramakrishnan. We were clueless, really. I couldn't ever remember facing a legspinner up to then. I felt pretty hard done by, having been given out without hitting it, and in the second Test, in Delhi, I just got on the same wavelength as Sivaramakrishnan, started picking him, and just batted and batted and batted.

One of the secrets of good umpiring is confidence. You may be wrong, but you have to project confidence. It's amazing what you can get away with if you do it confidently. Most players don't know the Laws of the game, anyway.

I can remember going to a party before the [1987] series, and Sarfraz [Nawaz] gave us a heads up. He'd heard on the grapevine that things were going to happen. That's why Imran didn't play. At the time, you don't think anything of it, but looking back... let's just say, the marginal decisions never went our way, and it came to a head with Gatt and Shakoor Rana, when neither of them handled themselves particularly well.

There were a lot of great bowlers in county cricket in the 1980s, but Vince van der Bijl was the toughest. He was tall and had the Joel Garner style, but I thought he was better than Garner. He hit the bat hard, never bowled a bad ball, was always at you, and he loved bowling. Another South African who gave his all.

I was at square leg when Ben Stokes was given out obstructing the field. Whether it was instinct or whatever, he put his arm out and there's no two ways about it: he was out. Simple as that.

"Vince van der Bijl was tall and had the Joel Garner style, but I thought he was better than Garner. He hit the bat hard, never bowled a bad ball, was always at you"

The bicentenary game: all I remember is standing at short leg to Boonie, who got a big hundred. He's a match referee now, and I tell him that all I saw for about two days was his arse.

I was fourth umpire at Lord's in 2010. In the umpire's room, Billy Bowden had said, "There's something not quite right about this." Long before the story came out.

Clive Rice had only been at Notts a couple of years when he joined the Packer thing, so the club sacked him. Within 24 hours they had signed Hadlee. Then it turned out that the club couldn't sack him, because it was against employment law, so they reinstated him. That's how we ended up with those two together.

We took a gamble with Franklyn Stephenson. He didn't have an outstanding record when we signed him. But I can't remember a time when I asked him for something and he didn't respond. It's a great shame he didn't play for West Indies.

When I was 37, I said I would play to 40 and call it a day. You just become frustrated. The things you used to be able to do, you can't. Things that used to be easy had become difficult. I knew enough was enough. I had other things in my life, including a sports retail business with my brother.

In one of my early games as an umpire, Durham against the Sri Lankans, I got a bit carried away with Aravinda de Silva smacking it around. I was watching him from a spectator's point of view, not an umpire's. He got to about 50-odd when a young Durham seamer hit him smack in front and I found myself saying not out. It would have knocked middle out. I thought: what have I done that for? Basically, I got wrapped up in watching him.

With the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1989, after a last-ball win over Essex:

With the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1989, after a last-ball win over Essex: "That would be one of my best days in cricket" © Adrian Murrell/Allsport

[At Faisalabad in 1987] it was coming toward the end of the day and we trying to get another over in. Gatt wanted to keep the batter on strike, so told him he was bringing up the guy who was back on the sweep. I was bat-pad on the off side. We thought everything was fine. Eddie Hemmings ran in, then Shakoor Rana just stepped in. Gatt just lost the plot. It had been building up. Not great scenes on a cricket pitch.

I occasionally watch the highlights but not often. You can send yourself mad. We all make mistakes. And at the end of the day, we all want a good night's sleep. I don't take myself to task too often.

One of the championship-winning seasons, Clive [Rice] won all the tosses bar one at home. Obviously we put them in. We used to think if we weren't batting by lunchtime, something had gone wrong. The one time we did lose the toss, against Hampshire, Mark Nicholas decided to bat.

The practice facilities weren't great [in the West Indies in 1986]. They were bowling 25 overs in a session, so you were lucky if they gave you one half-volley. I was trying everything. You name it, I tried it, but it didn't come off. It felt there was always a ball with my name on it. I got 50-odd in a one-dayer in Trinidad, and I just said, "I'm going to go for it here, because I've tried everything else." That wasn't my game, but that's what I was reduced to.

There were always going to be casualties after the West Indies, and I wasn't surprised to be one. I found solace at Notts, in the captaincy, and I found confidence playing county cricket again.

My last game was an isolated appearance against Australia at Old Trafford. Negotiations for the rebel tour were underway and at the time I knew my days as a Test player were numbered. I felt I could play at a higher standard than just county cricket, and obviously there was a financial consideration - money that was promised and which we didn't get, but that's another story - and if the same situation presented itself, I'd make the same decision again.

I remember Imran Khan charging in to bounce me, pulling him in front of square and jogging down thinking: "Who the hell's done that?" It's a strange feeling. Something takes over. A different power.

Scott Oliver tweets @reverse_sweeper