MICHAEL Gough is on his way Down Under – and the umpire says it will be a “dream come true” to officiate at the ICC World Cup.
The former Durham cricketer-turned-official could be away for up to 10 weeks, with the World Cup the highlight of his trip, in Australia in February and March.
Gough left for New Zealand – where he will start the biggest year of his umpiring life by taking charge of two international series – this week.
New Zealand Cricket have allocated him two domestic 50-over Ford Trophy matches as warm-ups, in Dunedin and Rangiora, before his international action gets under way.
Gough will be in the middle for the sixth and seventh ODIs between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Dunedin and Wellington on January 25 and 29, the latter contest finishing under the Westpac Stadium floodlights.
England’s umpire of the year will then officiate in the first two matches of the Black Caps v Pakistan series at Wellington and Napier on January 31 and February 3.
Gough flies to Australia on February 5 to join all the World Cup umpires and officials for a three-day camp ahead of the 11th staging of the competition, which starts on February 14.
It will be Gough’s first experience of a World Cup, and he admits he “can’t wait” for what is set to be the “pinnacle” of his career.
He said: “I’ve had a few months off since the end of the domestic season in England, and it has been quite nice to spend some time relaxing at home.
“I can’t wait for the World Cup, and working at that tournament is probably the pinnacle for an umpire, so this is just a dream come true for me.
“I never reached those levels as a player, so when I first started umpiring, this was a goal of mine.
“I was delighted to be selected and I’m looking forward to it all hugely.”
While most players will be travelling to Australia and New Zealand dreaming of making the headlines, Gough is wanting to avoid the back pages.
After all, good decisions are rarely discussed at length, but umpiring howlers can become the subject of much debate.
Gough and his colleagues will be helped by the Decision Review System (DRS), which gives teams the chance to review decisions they dispute.
Each side is allowed one unsuccessful review per innings, and although this can at times increase the spotlight on umpires, Gough says he is “all for it”.
He added: “As an umpire, if you’re not making the back pages, that’s good.
“A good umpire should be in the background a bit, and that for me is the ultimate goal.
“People want to be talking about the cricket and not any wrong decisions, and the DRS system helps with that as well. I’m all for it.
“It’s important to make sure as many decisions are correct as possible, and the DRS system helps to ensure that happens.
“Since it has come in, it has needed some tweaking, but it seems to be very effective now.
“It’s not great personally when you get a decision wrong, but it’s important to correct them if possible.”
Gough’s first involvement in the competition will be when he serves as the fourth umpire on February 15, when Pakistan take on old adversaries India at the Adelaide Open.
It is an occasion the umpire is relishing.
He said: “That will be a massive occasion, with about 50 or 60,000 there under the floodlights.
“Just to be a part of it will be fantastic. I’ll also be umpiring in Australia and India games, so I’m going to be involved in some high-profile matches.
“I’m going to be away for a minimum of two months, as my group games finish on March 14 or 15.
“The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final come after that, and it would be nice to be involved in those games.
“That well depend on how well we do, but if we perform well, hopefully we will get that chance.”
All of those involved in cricket at the top level become well used to travel, and spending long periods away from home, so Gough does not feel that will be a problem for him in Australia and New Zealand.
He added: “It won’t be difficult for me to be away from home for that long, as I’m used to it now.
“Over the years, I’ve done a lot of travelling with cricket, and you just get used to living out of a suitcase.
“One of the big benefits is you get to visit some very nice countries, and that’s certainly going to be the case in Australia and New Zealand.
“Some places you go to, you can end up stuck in the hotel and staring at the same four walls, but there will be plenty to see and do on this trip.”