By John Cheeran
Successful men do not seek advice, they give it.
But tips alone won’t guarantee you success.
Simon Taufel is a successful man who has won the ICC award for the best umpire five times. The Australian has written a book, rather a manual, on how to become good at the things you do very often. Finding The Gaps: Transferable Skills To be The Best You Can Be (Published by Pan Macmillan India), is a bold and confident attempt in conceptualizing the skills and steps needed to walk towards success.
The thing is that Finding the Gaps is not meant for international umpires, even though its primary audience should have been them, but for people like you and me. Taufel reminds us that cricket is played in more than 125 countries, but he would be a name worth talking about only in a very few markets such as India, Australia, England and South Africa. I am sure young men who would like to pursue a self-effacing career in umpiring would find Finding The Gaps hugely beneficial since Taufel has written this lucid book based on his career where he had to be under scrutiny all the time. The incidents and examples that Taufel largely bring up are from his specialised skill, decision-making.
The umpire’s role is that of both witness and judge although technology has eroded much of his/her authority on the field. That makes it an unenviable occupation, despite the good life that ICC offers these days.
A good reader can benefit a lot from Finding the Gaps as it enunciates several key factors that will help one succeed in any walk of life. Taufel has written in clear language and at the end of each chapter he has summarized the takeaway points to help his core readership.
The Aussie has even quoted Mahatma Gandhi to drive home his point on leadership and integrity. Taufel brings up Gandhi to discuss how to lead with integrity and values. Gandhi, he says, who was incredibly strong, but also had a massive amount of compassion.
He also discusses the ball tampering incident that brought disrepute to Australian cricket and threatened to torpedo the careers of Steve Smith and David Warner but he deflects the blame in a substantial way, leaving it at the door steps of clubs and grassroots organisations.
In this age, you cannot talk cricket without talking about Virat Kohli. Taufel says that Kohli has told his players that he will not ask them to do anything that he himself would not do. This line, if I remember correctly, was first said in Indian cricket by Rahul Dravid. Taufel cites Kohli’s career as an example how maturity can play a meaningful role in an individual’s career growth.
There are 17 chapters, and one of them is titled ‘Bouncebackability’. He recalls the 2004 Trent Bridge Test between England and New Zealand, the worst match in his career as umpire, where he had given six wrong decisions. And how reading former tennis player Brad Gilbert’s book Winning Ugly helped him bounce back.
He talks about Gilbert’s lessons such as changing the self-talk, not dwelling on mistakes, but acknowledging them and let them going and focusing on the process.
In an interesting anecdote, Taufel recalls how standing during an India match he denied a decision (a mistake it turned out to be) and Virender Sehwag fielding at square leg needling him for it. Taufel told Sehwag that he had made a mistake and what can one do about it now. He acknowledged the mistake, and that helped him deflate Sehwag’s jibe and regain his own focus.
In this interesting chapter, Taufel says that bouncebackability is a skill that takes practice and perseverance. It helps you to regroup, refocus and get back on track to face the next challenge. Elsewhere he also reminds the reader that the difference between success and failure is discipline, something that your fourth-grade school teacher was keen to impress you upon.