India’s tour of Australia has been riveting so far, with a close contest among the two teams and records tumbling ever so often. However, it was an Australian woman who created history on Thursday, as the two teams hit the field for the third Test match of the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Claire Polosak became the first woman to officiate in a men’s Test, a sport that has been around for 144 years. She will be performing the role of the fourth umpire in the ongoing game between India and Australia.
Claire’s career has seen a meteoric rise over the years. The 32-year-old was the first woman umpire in a men’s ODI and the first woman umpire in a men’s domestic game. In 2019, she officiated the final of World Cricket League (WCL) Division 2 between Namibia and Oman. In 2018, she and colleague Eloise Sheridan became the first women umpires to officiate on-field together during a WBBL game when Adelaide Strikers faced the Melbourne Stars. In 2016, New Zealand’s Kathy Cross and Polosak became the first two women umpires to officiate at the Women’s World T20.
“I never played cricket, but I always followed cricket, and my parents got me into it [umpiring], Dad used to drive me up from Goulburn to do the umpires course here. It took a few times to pass but it was something I was determined to do and I just kept working through the grades in Sydney competition. I’ve probably had to work a little bit harder [than men] but it’s all part of the enjoyment, and being able to do well makes it even better. It just shows there is a pathway now, there are increased opportunities,” Claire Polosak had earlier said while talking about her umpiring career.
Not one to be fazed by superstars on the field, Polosak reprimanded David Warner on the historic day even before a ball was bowled. She asked Warner to move off the pitch and do his shadow batting from behind the ropes. Polosak will be responsible for overseeing pitch preparation and repairs, player injuries and replacements, and organising replacement or new balls during the course of the test match.
In 2016, New Zealand’s Kathy Cross and Claire Polosak became the first two women umpires to officiate at the Women’s World T20.
Local umpires for Test cricket are normally frowned upon, but we live in the age of COVID-19, where it hasn’t been convenient for umpires to travel. It has opened opportunities for those like Claire Polosak.
Veteran ICC umpire Simon Taufel was full of praise, stating, “She has a tremendous amount of experience at the international level. When I spoke to Claire a couple of days about this opportunity, she was relishing it.” Taufel also praised Polosak for her call to reprimand Warner, adding that she “showed a lot of courage and a lot of fortitude for someone in their first experience as a fourth umpire and a Test match.”
Former Australian cricketers and commentators cheered her on. World Cup winning captain Alex Blackwell tweeted, “Great to see that Claire Polosak will perform 4th Umpire duties – making her the first female umpire to be involved in a men’s Test match.” Channel 7 commentator Alison Mitchell posted, “Pandemic restrictions are presenting many unexpected opportunities – notably Claire Polosak will be involved at the SCG, the first time a female has been part of an officiating team for a men’s Test.”
With female officials being the norm across sports like tennis and football, it was about time cricket caught up as well. One hopes Claire Polosak is simply one of many more women umpires to get their due on the world stage.