Husband and wife umpires to make history in Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

Husband and wife umpires to make history in Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

Umpires Naeem Ashraf and Jasmine Naeem will make history on Saturday when they become the first husband and wife to officiate together at a professional ECB fixture.

The pair will travel from their Blackburn home to oversee the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy match between Lightning and Western Storm at Loughborough.

It will cap a remarkable two weeks for the duo, who celebrated their 23-year wedding anniversary just days before Jasmine was one of five umpires at the women’s LV= Insurance Test between England and South Africa in Taunton.

“We’ve done it together in leagues in Lancashire and Greater Manchester and nobody’s realised that we were married,” Jasmine said. “Now we’re honoured that we’re getting this opportunity on such a big stage.”

Naeem, a former Pakistan international in his playing days, says news of their appointments have spread back to the country of his birth.

“Everyone is very proud and it’s really, really good for our community,” he said. “I want to give something back to cricket and umpiring is my way of doing that. When my mum found out we were going to stand together, she and my brother – who’s also a first-class umpire in Pakistan – were extremely excited.”

The pair started umpiring when injury curtailed Naeem’s playing career.

“We went through a hard period in our lives, but we recovered by Naeem going into umpiring,” Jasmine said. “He didn’t want to leave the game. It’s the same for all of us, isn’t it? We want to be a part of it.

“When he went to do his Stage Three course, his arm was still in a cast and he couldn’t write. So I ended up coming on the course, sitting there writing notes for him. Then it turned out I knew most of the answers.

“The course leaders started to ask me if I fancied giving it a go. I said ‘no’ initially. Then one day Naeem sat me down and said ‘you’ve spent your entire life in cricket, and you always wanted to find women that were inspirational, especially for our Asian community. Why don’t you stop looking for that inspiration and start being the inspiration for others?’

“Everything I know, I owe it to my husband. He’s made me the umpire I am today.”

The duo will be cheered on by their three adult sons, Shazaib, Umair, and Zahir, who they say have been endlessly encouraging as they pursued their umpiring ambitions.

Jasmine has already made her mark in the game, last year becoming the first British Muslim female umpire to officiate at Lord’s.

“For me, it’s not about race,” she said. “It’s about getting girls to come and play. If I can inspire girls and boys to take up cricket, I think I’ve done a good job.

“I’ve loved the game all my life. Cricket is so amazing and it’s something I hold very dear to me. You become part of a huge family and cricket has helped me through some really bad times.”

Jasmine added: “We always believe it’s an honour to be British umpires and walk out with the Three Lions on our heart. We’re more than proud that we’re regarded as positive role models and we want to encourage people from all walks of life to join our amazing cricket family. It’s a game without boundaries.”

Whatever happens on Saturday, this unique pair still have more they want to achieve.

“We’ve done so much, but we’re always looking for the next challenge,” Naeem said. “We’re ready, whatever it is. Umpiring is a massive opportunity to everyone.

“If you’re thinking about it and you’re prepared to work hard, it’ll pay off. Go for it!”

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