Cricket world in shock over death of Rudi Koertzen in car accident

Rudi Koertzen, pictured here before his tragic death.
Rudi Koertzen had died at age 73 after a car crash in South Africa. Image: Getty

The cricket world is mourning the tragic death of umpiring legend Rudi Koertzen in a car accident in South Africa. He was 73.

Koertzen, known as the ‘Slow Death’ because of the time it took for him to raise his finger to give a batsman out, was returning to his home in the Eastern Cape province after playing in a golf tournament when the crash happened.

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South Africa's Algoa FM radio station reported that Koertzen and three other people were killed in a head-on collision near the town of Riversdale in the Western Cape province.

Cricket South Africa announced Koertzen's death on Tuesday morning but gave no details of the accident.

Koertzen, who was one of cricket's most respected umpires, stood in 108 Tests, a record 209 one-day internationals and 14 T20s over an 18-year career.

His first Test was during South Africa's return to international cricket at home in 1992, after a 22-year ban because of apartheid, while he retired in 2010.

Koertzen was famous for his unique method of giving a batter out, where he'd slowly raise his left arm with his finger pointing at the batter.

It became known as the "slow finger of death", while he also named his autobiography 'Slow Death'.

"I used to hold my hands in front of me and every time there was an appeal, I would fold them against my ribs," Koertzen once said in an interview.

"Then someone told me 'Rudi, you cannot do that. Every time you raise your hands to fold them, the bowler thinks you are going to give him a wicket'.

"So I started clasping my wrists at the back. The finger comes out slowly because it takes time for me to release my grasp at the back."

Rudi Koertzen, pictured here with a commemorative trophy after his final Test match as an umpire.
Rudi Koertzen poses with a commemorative trophy after his final Test match as an umpire. (Photo by Gareth Copley/PA Images via Getty Images)

Cricket world in shock over Rudi Koertzen's death

Cricket South Africa chief executive Pholetsi Moseki said: "The passing of this titan is a sad loss for the game."

Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar, who has since surpassed Koertzen’s record for most international matches officiated, described Koertzen’s death as “a very big loss”.

"I stood in so many games with him," said Dar.

"He was not only very good as an umpire but also an excellent colleague, always very cooperative on field and also always willing to help off the field. Because of the way he was, he was also well-respected by players."

Rudi Koertzen, pictured here during an Ashes Test match between Australia and England in 2009.
Rudi Koertzen during an Ashes Test match between Australia and England in 2009. (Photo by IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Fellow South African Marais Erasmus described Koertzen as "a strong character, physically and mentally."

Erasmus said of Koertzen: “He paved the way for South African umpires to get to the world stage and made us all believe it's possible. A true legend. As a young umpire, I learnt a lot from him.”

Former Sri Lanka star and former president of MCC Kumar Sangakkara described Koertzen in a tweet as “a wonderful friend and umpire. Honest, forthright and loved the game.”

Former Indian batsman Virender Sehwag described how Koertzen would scold him if he played a rash shot, telling him: “Play sensibly, I want to watch your batting.”

Koertzen was a keen golfer, who maintained a single figure handicap until the time of his death.

The South African team, in England for a Test series starting next week, wore black armbands in his memory on the first day of a match against England Lions in Canterbury on Tuesday.

with agencies

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