Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Steve Bucknor will write a book which promises a lot of fun, juice and excitement.- photo by Janet Silvera
The nutritional value was nil, the taste cloying, but those were minor to the round bun and soft drink that played the role of perpetual companion to Steve Bucknor every lunchtime during his days at school.
Living on a poor man's diet may have played a significant role in shaping the determination towards prosperity that the man considered the world's best cricket umpire has achieved.
When Bucknor speaks of his humble beginnings, there is an immense sense of pride that emanates from his voice, and this becomes even more consequential when you learn he was born 'under the clock' in the vicinity of McCatty Street, downtown Montego Bay.
A view of his profile on Google's Wikipedia encyclopaedia results in goose pimples, so just imagine being in the same room with the person who has earned the name 'Slow Death Bucknor' in the cricketing world.
His bio reads like this: He has stood in five consecutive World Cup finals (the only umpire in the world to achieve such a feat); serves as one of two International Cricket Council (ICC) Elite Umpires from the Caribbean (only one other region in the world has two Elite Umpires on the ICC panel - Australia); he has stood in the third highest number of one-day internationals (ODIs) and more Test matches than anyone else. He has stood in no fewer than 14 Ashes Tests, at least one in each Ashes series since 1994, including the thrilling Boxing Day Test in 1998 and the Old Trafford Test in 2005.
Having earned such flattering strengths, you would think this has changed him in some way or form, but fame has not made its way to his psyche.
On the streets of Montego Bay he remains the Steve Bucknor who played DaCosta Cup football for his alma mater Cornwall College, did long jump as a student, coached and brought St. James schoolboy football to a league known only by champions.
"Upbringing, upbringing, upbringing is why I am the way I am," he said. "If I remain myself, people will not see me as the person up there, but the person with depth, they will see me as one of everybody else, and not one above anybody."
Extremely deep in his thinking, when asked about his place of abode,
which is located in the middle income community of Farm Heights, Bucknor, like most people who make it big could have opted for a mansion in the upscale Spring Farm, Ironshore or Carol Gardens communities in Montego Bay, said there was no point in moving.
His original studio apartment has been converted into a seven bedroom palace and he says, "Where I am coming from, I can't move from the community I now reside in. I am coming from a round bun and a soft drinks for lunch every day. How many youngsters nowadays could survive on that?" he asked.
In fact, today, Steve Bucknor is to international cricket as Marcus Garvey was to freedom fighting, Bob Marley to reggae and Merlene Ottey to track and field.
At 61 years of age, he is the world's most respected umpire, a fact that has caused resentment by some, "I have sat in a vehicle and another umpire who was seated behind me remarked, 'how come this person is doing so many finals, he must have friends in high places."
But he will tell you that having friends in high places has not been his catalyst; his incredible and indisputable performance over the years has resulted in his recognition and elevation to the top, and not his popularity.
"I like the big occasions; not that the smaller games don't mean much, but once the game is of a certain magnitude I see the challenge to thrive," he told Outlook.
His biggest challenge and driving force to date is officiating at a world cup final.
How does he get there and stay there?
Steve Bucknor has made giant steps since 1993 when he was the least experience of all the ICC umpires. With each game officiated his grading improved, and by 2003 he received the highest marks in his field.
After 13 years with international cricket, he is most renowned and most sought after.
Slow Death Bucknor reputation
The former Mathematics teacher and FIFA referee who was forced to leave the latter arena at age 45, gained the reputation 'Slow Death Bucknor' because of the long time it would take him to make a decision on the field.
"In the past umpires would make their decisions quickly, especially in the West Indies, and even if they thought they had made a mistake, it became difficult to reverse," he explained. As a consequence, he told himself, he wouldn't make the same mistakes as his colleagues.
An he came under a lot of criticism from commentators, he said he felt it necessary to replay the action to the extent that made him comfortable.
West Indies downfall, calculates into Bucknor's fortunes.
Flying the Jamaican flag higher and higher became easier, because of the West Indies' constant downfall, which fortunately and unfortunately Steve Bucknor has benefited from. "If they go to the finals I can't umpire the game," he explained.
And cricket fans throughout the globe know the losses suffered by the team that made its name defeating some of the world's best in their heydays.
He recalls packing his bags to leave India for Jamaica in 1996, only to receive a call at midnight that the West Indies had lost the finals to Australia and he was to get on a flight instead to Pakistan.
He has since taken several trips worldwide, staying away eight to nine months from his family, an there has been marked decrease in the last two years, he said, "I found myself away once for eight weeks, came home for five nights and was back on the road for nine weeks. It's not the best thing, but that is the case."
The father of seven children, who is married Leora for 18 years says his job has literally forced him to become the most attentive person in his family. "When I am at home I don't leave my children one inch. Once I am here, I go everywhere with them."
The family worships together and every Sunday afternoon he takes them out driving.
On the day this interview was conducted Bucknor had already packed his bags for his latest trip to India in order to umpire the ODI series. He umpired the first in a series of games on Saturday, September 29th.
But these lengthy trips won't be for long as he doesn't plan to remain on the international scene beyond than another two years. "After age 63 umpires don't perform well," he admits, adding that he had seen many of his colleagues literally fade away because they want to prove the biological clock wrong and go up to 65.
"Between 63 and 65, they are just not there as far as their reflexes are concern," he noted. He however, has a strict regimen and tries to keep fit by running and going to the gym to keep his reflexes in shape. "I might be a little different to others, but it's difficult to maintain that high level of concentration the older you get."
Pain, fatigue and the intense heat while on the field, are just some of the challenges he says umpires face, especially his colleagues from the colder countries, "I will manage, but sometimes it gets to 40 - 45 degrees in India and Pakistan, when it gets to that stage it is not easy to concentrate."
He has used that as a benchmark to announce that he doesn't wish to be around too long after age 63.
Life after cricket
Already, Steve Bucknor is being hailed and welcomed back into the world of football by those in St. James who have placed squarely at his feet the responsibility for bringing the parish back to its glory days.
He is currently involved in a football academy, which is strictly voluntary. Enrolled in it are 35 inner-city youths. Bucknor gives his time and money towards developing the skills of these young men and the results are paying off beautifully.
Since his involvement, the St. James 'Under 13' team went to the finals, of the Lennox Lewis Under 13 Championships, he believes for the first time. St. James High School won the 'Rural Under 14 Championships' in 2006 with eight boys from the academy as members of the squad and two Saturdays ago, he had three of his 14-year-olds playing in the DaCosta Cup games.
Bucknor spends an average of $600,000 - $700,000 out of his pocket annually on the programme and has no regrets because of the effect that it has had on their lives.
"If they don't train and go to school, they are automatically disqualified from the programme."
There is also a book in the works specifically geared at life on the pitch. "The things that happens on the field is unbelievable," he quipped.
Bucknor promises a lot of fun, juice and excitement in the masterpiece he is crafting.