Former English first-class and List A cricketer David Robert Shepherd was known as one of the greatest umpires in cricket history. He was a very popular umpire in international cricket as many enjoyed and respected his simple and strong nature.
Long cricket career
David Shepherd was born on 27th December 1940 at Bideford, Devon. He played professional cricket for almost 15 years, between 1965 and 1979, who made a first-class debut with a century.
In his domestic cricket career, Shepherd served for Gloucestershire. The right-handed middle-order batter scored 10672 runs in 282 first-class matches (average 24.47) and also scored 3330 runs in 183 List A games (average 21.34). He hit 12 centuries and 55 half-centuries in the first-class career and also hit his only century and 13 fifties in List A career. While he rarely bowled, the right-arm medium also had two first-class wickets in his name.
Legendary umpire David Shepherd
After ending his playing career in 1979, Shepherd began his umpiring career, where he ultimately became a legend. Soon, he gradually started to officiate first-class matches.
In 1983, Shepherd experienced his first umpiring in international cricket. He made the on-field umpiring debut during the match between Pakistan vs Sri Lanka at Swansea in the World Cup 1983 (9th June 1983).
Umpire Shepherd made his Test debut in August 1985 when England and Australia met at Manchester during the fourth Test of the Ashes 1985. Slowly, he became popular among many people. Not only he was famous for his fair decisions, but he was also admired for his friendly nature on and off the field. Undoubtedly, he was one of the most respected umpires by almost everyone.
While the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires was established in April 2002, Shepherd was one of the umpires in that panel. Since then, both the umpires in a Test match and one of the umpires in an ODI match must have to be independent of the competing nations (rules have been loosened during the COVID-19 period).
Shepherd continued his umpiring career till 2005. While the umpire’s last Test was West Indies vs Pakistan at Kingston in June 2005, his last international match was The Oval ODI between England and Australia on 12th July 2005. When Shepherd retired from umpiring, he was holding the record of most ODI matches as an umpire.
Though the International Cricket Council (ICC) offered Shepherd to officiate in the Lord’s Test in Ashes 2005 as his farewell appearance, he denied that offer to maintain the ICC’s neutral umpiring rule in Test cricket.
Stats of umpire David Shepherd
First umpire to officiate in at least one Test match in all the ten Test-playing nations (considering the Test nations before Ireland and Afghanistan joined as the ICC full members).
Most matches as an on-field umpire in any Men’s tournament finals (22 matches).
Second most matches as an on-field umpire in ICC Men’s tournament finals (7 matches).
Most matches as an on-field English umpire in Men’s international cricket.
Unlucky Nelson: David Shepherd made the “Nelson” popular in cricket. Since his childhood, he had a belief that the 111 or multiples thereof (“222” or “333” or others similar) were the unlucky numbers. During his umpiring career, when a team reached a total of 111 or its multiples, Shepherd usually hopped to counteract any unlucky incident.
Friday 13th: According to many reports, David Shepherd also usually tied a matchstick to a finger every Friday, which had the date of 13th. While Friday the 13th is commonly considered an unlucky day, Shepherd believed that "touching wood" would bring good luck.
Considered early retirement due to poor umpiring: David Shepherd was very honest in his umpiring role. He had some tough times during the 2001 Manchester Test between England and Pakistan. While England lost that Test match after losing their last eight wickets on the final session of that Test match, four English batters were dismissed on the no-ball deliveries. Shepherd failed to recognize three no-ball dismissals, and he later reportedly considered retirement after watching his mistakes in TV replays.
First umpire to remove a bowler from the attack in international cricket: During a Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, Pakistan captain Waqar Younis delivered two beamers to the Australian batter Andrew Symonds. David Shepherd warned Waqar after the first incident, and he later removed Waqar from the bowling of that game after his second instance.
Best memorable match: In an ESPNcricinfo interview just before his umpiring retirement, David Shepherd revealed the best memorable game in his umpiring career. Apart from nominating all his three World Cup finals in this list, he also chose the 1987 MCC Bicentenary match (a five-day first-class match) between MCC and the Rest of the World at Lord’s. He said about that game, “It was a very good match, played in the right spirit and, although the last day was washed out, it was a very special occasion.”
David Shepherd married Jenny in 2008, who was his long-time partner. He was diagnosed with cancer which was painful for him for the last few years. On 27th October 2009, he died of long-battling cancer at the age of 68-year-old.