Fri | Dec 9, 2016

EDITORIAL - Douglas Sang Hue a standard-bearer

Published:Tuesday | August 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

In so far as we are aware, Douglas Sang Hue, who died last week at 82, received no formal national honour - although last year the Jamaica Cricket Association named the umpires' room at Sabina Park for him and the legendary Steve Bucknor.

But long before Bucknor, an inductee of the Order of Jamaica, was parading global cricket fields as an International Cricket Council (ICC) elite umpire, Douglas Sang Hue, was doing Jamaica and the Caribbean proud through excellence in his craft. He was, at one time, considered the best Test umpire in the world. All of this, of course, does not mean that Sang Hue should, posthumously, receive a similar national award. His greater reward, perhaps, will be in his remembrance, which should be worthy of the man.

Douglas Sang Hue was one of those understated, but exceptional individuals. He was a small, relatively unobtrusive man of barely five feet, four inches, who could be easily missed in the crowd. Except when he entered the cricket field, everything changed. His steely character was apparent.

First, Sang Hue is a Jamaican of Chinese extraction - obviously so. Half a century ago, as it remains today, few West Indians of Chinese descent were involved in cricket at the highest level, whether as players or officials. So when, in 1962, Douglas Sang Hue umpired the first of his 31 Test matches - the fifth at Sabina Park during India's tour of the West Indies - he would have seemed, in some quarters, a peculiarity. If Sang Hue noticed, he never let on.

What soon became apparent was that Douglas Sang Hue was a good umpire, and a scrupulously honest one. In the days before technological aids, elite panels and neutral umpires, it was conventional wisdom that home teams not only had the advantage of conditions, but umpiring decisions as well. Sang Hue caused people to seriously question those assumptions.

In the second Test of the 1967-68 series between the West Indies and England, with the West Indies following on their second innings, his decision to give Basil Butch out caught behind off John Snow led to a crowd disturbance - which the police tried to quell by firing tear gas - and more than an hour's delay in the game.

FIRM IN THE FACE OF CONTROVERSY

Six years later, at Queens Park Oval in Trinidad, he adjudged West Indian batsman Alvin Kallicharran run out off the last ball of the day when England's Tony Greig threw down the stumps, having assumed that play had been called for the day, which Sang Hue had not formally done. In the face of controversy, Sang Hue stood by his decision. The issue was resolved with Greig's withdrawal of his appeal. He also famously called the Australian off-spinner Bruce Yardley for throwing in an Australian tour match in 1978, which contributed to his sidelining by the West Indian authorities, until his return for three matches of the 1980-81 series between England and the West Indies.

Sang Hue's skills were respected outside the Caribbean. He umpired in the English county championships in 1977 and in Kerry Packer's World Series cricket matches in Australia and the West Indies in 1977 and 1979, respectively.

As a cricket umpire, Douglas Sang Hue was not without flaws, but his mistakes were genuine. More important, on the cricket field, his aim was perfection, and he worked hard towards it. It's a trait this newspaper values.

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