20 April 2007
South African umpire Rudi Koertzen equalled the world record held by the retired David Shepherd when he officiated in the Cricket World Cup match between the West Indies and Bangladesh in Barbados on Thursday. It was his 172nd one-day international.
Koertzen made his ODI debut on his home ground of Saint George’s Park in Port Elizabeth in December 1992.
Almost 10 years later, he reached the century mark in the 2003 Cricket World Cup, hosted by South Africa, when he stood in the Australia versus Sri Lanka semi-final, also in Port Elizabeth.
In April 2006, Koertzen reached the 150-match milestone when he and fellow South African Brian Jerling took charge of an encounter between traditional rivals Pakistan and India.
Not surprisingly, given his experience, Koertzen is respected as one of the world’s leading umpires. He is known for slowly and very deliberately raising his finger to send a batsman on his way, which is why he has earned the nickname “Slow Death”.
Speaking at the World Cup this week, Koertzen said: “I am delighted to be in the same company as the legendary David Shepherd, and I am proud to be a South African.”
‘An extraordinary umpire’
Gerald Majola, CEO of Cricket South Africa, paid tribute to Koertzen, saying: “This is an extraordinary milestone for an extraordinary umpire. Rudi Koertzen has been a fine ambassador for South Africa throughout the cricketing world.
“Rudi is respected by the world’s top players and is an excellent role model for all aspiring umpires,” Majola added. “We are very proud of him.”
Koertzen is easily recognisable with his trademark floppy hat and wrap-around sunglasses, which seldom leave his face. He seems mostly implacable, but watch closely and one can see he has a good relationship with the players, with short interchanges sometimes resulting in a smile crossing his otherwise stern features.
Koertzen began umpiring in 1981 and just over 10 years later, at the age of 43, stood in his first test. In 1997 he was appointed a full-time ICC umpire.
In 2002, he became a member of the ICC’s elite panel. Only Koertzen, along with Steve Bucknor and Daryl Harper, remain from that original panel.
Umpire of the Year
In 2002, he was voted top umpire of the year. He has been nominated for the award for the past two years, finishing third on both occasions.
Koertzen’s stated goal is to umpire 100 tests and 200 ODIs before he retires.
It takes a lot to do what he does, and it’s a tough job that keeps him away from his wife and four childen for about two-thirds of every year.