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Benson rules out an umpiring return to St Lawrence

Thursday 18th February 2010

Former Kent skipper Mark Benson in his pomp

By Mark Pennell

Former county captain Mark Benson has confirmed that his self-imposed exile from standing in Kent matches will continue despite his full-time return to the ECB first-class umpiring panel this summer.
The Ex-England left-hander who captained Kent between 1991 and 1996, retired from the ICC“s Emirates Elite panel in February after standing in 21 Tests, 72 one-day internationals and 19 Twenty20 internationals. His final game was the second Test between Australia and the West Indies in Adelaide in December when Benson stood down during the match after feeling unwell.
Now 51 and living in America, Benson will rejoin the full ECB first-class list this summer, but once again he steadfastly refuses to officiate in any games involving his beloved former club.
Speaking from his home near Disneyland, Florida, Benson said: “To be honest, I don“t like the idea of umpiring Kent matches. I still have friends on the staff and I coached Sam Northeast at a very young age and know him as a player, so I still wouldn“t feel comfortable about umpiring Kent matches.
“The ECB have 28 umpires on the circuit and there are 17 other teams for me to work with, so I“d prefer to keep it as it is. If I ever gave a decision that cost Kent or the opposition the chance of winning a tight game people might say; ‘He“s only done that because he played for and captained Kent“.
“I“d just rather not put myself in a position of ever being accused of that. It is a shame, because I would quite like to umpire at Canterbury, but that“s the way it is and the way I want it. A lot of the other umpires have played for more than one county, but I only ever played for one club and I“ll always be associated with Kent. I still follow them and the first score I look for in the morning paper is Kent“s. I want them to do well.”
As for his health, Benson says he will be raring to go come the start of the season and having enjoyed over three months rest. He added: “I feel okay at the moment. I had a heart murmur a couple of years back when they found a slight defect and that has been a worry, but things are fine now. Touch wood.
“The reality was, I never really aspired to being an international umpire. When I started umpiring I wanted to do well at it, but it was never one of my dreams to do Tests. I“m happy I had that opportunity, but now I“m not travelling around the world I might even get the chance to go and watch a game at St Lawrence one of the days.”

Photograph: ARPics