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Cricket news - Learn from your mistakes and move on, Kettleborough's philosophy

He was only 26 at the time but Hampshire told him the ECB were looking for younger umpires who had first-class playing experience to join their panel.

By his own admission, it was a conversation that changed Richard Kettleborough's life. It was 1999 and he was still on the books at Middlesex, trying to cling on to a playing career that had never really kicked on, when he sat down for a chat with first-class umpire and former Yorkshire player John Hampshire. Had Kettleborough ever thought about a career in umpiring?

He was only 26 at the time but Hampshire told him the ECB were looking for younger umpires who had first-class playing experience to join their panel. The ICC too were looking for some younger officials, Hampshire said, so if he did well in county cricket, there would be the chance to umpire at the very top level. Kettleborough knew he would never get there as a player. This might just be the next best thing.

Three years later, he was umpiring in county cricket, given great support by Chris Kelly, the ECB's umpiring chief. Five years after that, Kettleborough did his first international, a T20I between England and Australia at Old Trafford in August 2009. Since then, there have been 58 Tests, 82 ODIs and 22 T20Is. Currently, he is one of the top two or three umpires in the world and has already collected the treble, umpiring the finals of the World Cup, the T20 WC and the Champions Trophy. It's been quite a ride.

"It's happened a lot sooner than I ever anticipated," Kettleborough tells Cricbuzz. "I've been very fortunate. Chris identified who the people were who he thought could go to the next level and he pushed us and promoted us at the right time."

Kettleborough may regard himself as fortunate but there's been plenty of hard work thrown in. He's got to the top of his profession by doing all the courses, working in domestic cricket, learning all the time. He now helps other umpires, offering his counsel to English officials just starting out, encouraging them to call him to talk through issues. Those who work with him highlight his calmness, his unruffled nature. They remark how Kettleborough keeps his cool even in the most fraught times. And importantly, far more often than not he gets the decisions right.

Decision-making is, after all, an umpire's bread and butter and over the course of the next few weeks, their performance will come under scrutiny just as much as the players. Yes, the Decision Review System (DRS) may help save a few blushes, but in high-stakes cricket where one mistake by a player or an umpire could prove fatal to a side's chances, the pressure doesn't get much bigger.

Kettleborough has seen it all before, of course, but it has taken him a while to get comfortable with the pressure of being an international umpire, of having every decision dissected by numerous television replays and now, on social media too. "I remember going back earlier in my career thinking 'This is a big game, that's a big game'", he says. "You end up putting too much pressure on yourself. There's enough pressure anyway.

"That's a big learning curve. We all want to do the job to the best of our abilities and when things don't go to plan, it's not ideal. One of the best pieces of advice I would give is to not be too harsh on yourself. Learn from your mistakes and move on."

This will be Kettleborough's third World Cup when he takes charge of India against South Africa in Southampton on June 5, but his first at home. He doesn't get to umpire many international games in England these days, because neutral umpires stand in Tests and at one end in ODIs, so this tournament means something extra, a chance to finally umpire on the biggest stage in his own country.

He has prepared by doing a number of domestic one-day matches in England and then the latter half of the tri-series between West Indies, Ireland and Bangladesh in Dublin. His family will hopefully attend a game or two, probably when he's umpiring at Trent Bridge or Old Trafford, near to their Sheffield home, but his son is on the books of the Sheffield Wednesday football academy so he's got a lot on too. Hopefully they can make it work.

Kettleborough's first World Cup was in 2011 in India. He wasn't on the elite panel then and he admits he didn't know what to expect from the tournament. "There were some very experienced and big characters in that room when I first walked in. People like Simon Taufel, Billy Bowden. It went very well. I was appointed to do TV umpire in the quarterfinals. I did the India - Australia game in Ahmedabad too. That was further than I probably expected to get at that stage."

Given the strength of his performances in that tournament, it was no surprise that Kettleborough was added to the ICC's Elite Panel shortly after, becoming its youngest member. In 2013, he won the ICC's Umpire of the Year award for the first time. He won it the two years after that too and in 2015 was appointed to stand in the World Cup final at the MCG between Australia and New Zealand.

"The 2015 one, umpiring the final was very special indeed. A day I'll never forget," he says. He was told he would be officiating a few days in advance so he had time to prepare but when he walked out for the anthems, the atmosphere at the MCG took his breath away. He remembers the noise of the crowd which went up a few decibels when Mitchell Starc, from Kettleborough's end, removed New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum in the first over. "When you set out as an umpire on the journey, that's one of the goals you want to achieve," he says. "Luckily I was able to."

Whether or not he has a chance to stand in the final at Lord's on July 14 depends not only on his own performances but whether England make it through. Kettleborough though, says he hasn't given England's chances, or the impact that could have on his tournament, much thought. However, it is worth asking whether it is right that the best two umpires in the world may not officiate the biggest game of the last four years because they happen to come from the same country as the finalists. Surely you want the best people in charge?

Regardless, all the 16 umpires will be doing their best to be considered for the knock-out matches. There's a healthy competition between them. "Every umpire I've ever worked with, we are all proud people and we want to perform at a high level, day-in, day-out and that's the aim of everyone going into this tournament," he says. "To have a good, consistent tournament.

"I've got a lot of games coming up over the next month, a lot of high-profile games where scrutiny is going to be at its highest. For me, it's about trying to enjoy it, work hard with my colleagues. Hopefully it will be a World Cup to remember.

"And we've got the best seat in the house."

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