Maverick umpire finds Dallas route to ICC panel

When Sameer Bandekar was faced with the proposition of shifting his family's base to the United States of America (USA) a couple of years ago, he admits to have been caught in two minds. Like any first-class umpire worth his salt, and especially one who had spent two decades officiating in the oblivion of domestic cricket, a promotion to the ICC panel had been a lifelong dream.

But while Bandekar continued to grind away, a number of his peers and successors had surpassed him and taken the step up to the next level. The dream was slipping away rather rapidly.

And here he was, accorded a green-card on the aegis of his sister-in-law, who is a USA citizen. Bandekar, mainly through his wife's insistence, decided to take the plunge, moving to Dallas. He refused to give forego his passion though, despite the limited opportunities in his adopted land.

Last month his persistence finally paid off. But in an interesting twist of fate, the 48-year-old former Girgaum-resident was finally drafted into the ICC umpire's panel as the USA Cricket Association's (USACA) first-ever representative.

It was a bitter-sweet moment, he reveals. So was it serendipity or a prudent career move? Take your pick. Bandekar simply has one word for it, 'destiny'.

"I have given my all to the sport. And hard-work rarely goes unrewarded. My dream always was to become a member of the ICC Panel. I have no regrets that it didn't happen when I was an Indian umpire," he says.

Though he was aware of the presence of cricket in the States, Bandekar never imagined an organized structure for his beloved sport there. He was to be pleasantly surprised.

"My inherent cricket keeda helped me discover a ground where a lot of guys, mainly Indian, would play regularly. I began by playing with them, before they realized I was a first-class umpire. I soon became a part of the North Texas Cricket Association (NTCA) before being nominated as an international umpire by the USACA," reveals Bandekar.

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