One of the most respected and liked umpires in international cricket, David Shepherd was born and bred in Devon, and although he has traveled the world plying his trade, he has always been true to his West Country roots. His greying hair and portly figure make him instantly identifiable, as does his odd habit of balancing on one foot whenever the score reaches the dreaded Nelson (or multiples thereof). His reputation, however is built on his dedication to the difficult task of umpiring, an unstinting fairness, superb judgement, and an ability to defuse difficult situations with a well-chosen word.
His playing career was perhaps less distinguished, although he certainly was one of the most popular players to ever represent Gloucestershire. Even in his playing days he was by no means slim, and not the most agile of fielders. He was however a determined batsman who made over 10,000 first-class runs, and one than that contributed greatly to the character of the Gloucestershire team. He learned his cricket in Devon, representing the North Devon club, and later his county. He took up teaching, and he did not make his debut for Gloucestershire until he was twenty-five. A century on debut set him on the road to a fourteen-year career with the county, capped in 1969, and earning a benefit in 1978. A powerful right-hand bat, his method was basic, but effective - he was particularly useful in the middle order in the one-day game, where his careful placement and good judgement compensated for a lack of speed between the wickets. Geoffrey Moorhouse memorably described him thus: "It is not only his build, though that calls the deep rooted countryman to mind. His bottom hand is clamped massively just above the shoulder of the bat,, as some ancestor probably held a scythe, or possibly a blacksmith's maul. He stands … head scanning the field of play the way men do by gates when they are contemplating crops…".
He was appointed to the first-class umpires list in 1981, and made a rapid ascent to the highest level of the umpiring profession. After umpiring in the 1983 World Cup, he was appointed to his first Test in 1985. After umpiring in the 1987 and 1992 World Cups, he was awarded the honour of officiating at the finals of the 1996 and 1999 events, and has officiated in tests and one-day internationals all over the world.
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dave Liverman)