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How zat ! - Herbert (Herbie) Clemen Felsinger

By Pelham Juriansz - Sunday Leader June 19 2005

A double century in school cricket at the age of 14 and a partnership of 351 for the first wicket with Makin Salih for Moors was the highlight of his career.

He played for 3 clubs BRC, Moors and Saracens the longest being for 11 years. But he is best remembered as being an umpire of repute and one of the longstanding and outstanding umpires of yore.

An umpire, especially today, comes under a lot of fire. More so because of the television replays and the use of technology! The armchair critic is ever ready to criticise the umpire and even the commentators take the "man in white" to task. He has to count the balls and have literally about ten eyes to watch what is going on. Sometimes he may fall asleep and wake up o the sound of a ferocious "Howzat" blasting his ear drums. He then considers the volume of the sound. Better to give the batsman out as then he leaves the crease than to face the wrath of eleven men crying for his blood. And especially if one has a bowler of the ferocity of Dennis Lillee appealing one is tempted to raise the finger.

Well, enough of meandering.

We are talking of Herbert (Herbie) Clemen Felsinger. He scored a rare double century (202 not out) in January 1948 when playing for Carey College against St.John's Nugegoda at the Wesley College grounds.

In 1952/53 he was selected to play for Ceylon vs India under the late F.C. de Saram. In 1979 he umpired the 100th Royal-Thomian match at the SSC and in 1982 he stood once again with K.T Francis for the first Test match against England at the Oval.

Having umpired in England in 1985 he expanded his horizons.

One of his unforgettable experiences is having umpired with the legendary Dickie Bird in Sharjah. He even has a stump autographed by the great man.

He was selected to umpire the first World Cup to be held in Australia.

He was one of the 16 local umpires felicitated by the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers at the P.Sara Stadium in January 2003. He was awarded a medal of excellence and a certificate of merit by Chandra Schaffter, MD of Janashakthi Group.  

Some of the outstanding players whom he watched as an umpire were Sunil Wettimuny, Roy Dias, Ranjan Madugalle,

Describing the First Test match vs England Felsinger said that Sri Lanka had a good side, with the Wettimuny's , Madugalle, Dias, Arjuna Ranatunga and bowlers like John and Ashantha de Mel.  Sri Lanka was in a winning way at one stage. I thought that Sri Lanka could save the match but they failed," said a disappointed Felsinger.

For 20 years as an umpire from 1971-1991, till a stroke overtook him, he was yet  another umpire struck down by tragedy, the other being Ajith Perera.

As for the pre Test era, he mentioned that Sri Lanka had a good side. "Umpiring today is easy. All you do is that you watch the ball when it is in the air and see whether it is going to strike the stumps or not. If in doubt you can refer to the third umpire."

Celebrating his 75th birthday on June 4 and also coincidentally his 50th Wedding Anniversary on the smae date, Felsinger said that the umpires of his era were better.

Talking of good bowlers during his umpiring era he mentioned Ajith de Silva and Ravi Ratnayake, not Rumesh. "He could swing the ball a lot." He added. He also described Sunil Wettimuny as a class bat. "There is too much of money in the game now" he lamented.

As for recent umpires he singled out S. Venkataragan and Asoka de Silva. Venkat played against me when I represented Ceylon. Steve Bucknor takes too much time to give a decision" he said.

"The standards of umpiring have deteriorated. The standards were of a high calibre at one time.  He particularly referred to the late M.A.Jayasinghe as being an outstanding umpire. Others he mentioned were K.T. Francis and Basil Anthony.

As for cricketing standards he said that that too had deteriorated because of the lure of money. 

Wicket keepers of note were Ben Navaratne and the two Fernando's Ranjit and H.I.K. Fernando. Special mention was made of Mahes Goonetilleke and Russell Hamer.

In later years "Little Kalu" was good but the selectors have opted for Kumar Sangakkara, whom he doesn't consider the best.

Recently Stanley Jayasinghe in an article that Felsinger was omitted from a list of umpires given recognition by Thilanga Sumithapala. Umpires are remembered after they are dead and not always thanked for the thankless job they do out there.