Middlebrook was released by Northamptonshire at the end of last season but returned to Yorkshire colours for their recent LV= County Championship draw against Warwickshire at Headingley as cover for Adil Rashid.
But even though he took eight wickets in his first appearance for his home county in 14 years, Middlebrook, who celebrates his 38th birthday on Wednesday, admitted he does not expect to play again.
“I’ve been looking to do umpiring for the last two or three years and it was just sort of a little fairytale ending to my playing career,” he told the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.
“I have signed for the rest of the year if needed but I just took it as a one-off game for Yorkshire.
“I had got stuck in to umpiring but you can’t really turn it down, playing for the White Rose.
“I’m not on the reserve list yet but Chris Kelly (ECB’s head of umpires) has known for the last two or three years that I’ve been wanting to get into it.
“He was good in saying ‘try and play as long as you can’. It was a bit of a shock when I told him I was turning out for the champions.”
Middlebrook, Northants’ leading run-scorer last year with 825, was hopeful of continuing his county career – his eight against Warwickshire was also his 15th five-wicket haul of his career.??His first class career has seen him score 7,826 runs and take 466 wickets.
He said: “I had an okay season last year with bat and ball and I felt that there was some life in the old dog. But it just wasn’t to be.
“I went to play grade cricket for Northcote in Melbourne during the winter and going to Australia helped me make peace (with the fact that my career was over).
“One of my best mates out there was retiring and he said ‘we’ve got a young side and we need a bit of experience’.
“I also did a bit of coaching and Chris Kelly got me with Cricket Victoria on the umpiring side of things. I did a lot of midweek games.
“Playing a bit on a Saturday helped to keep me fit, then umpiring midweek helps you to learn how to give decisions.”
Middlebrook also praised Rashid, who has returned to Yorkshire colours this week after a frustrating month in the Caribbean with England, saying the national selectors ought to have played the 27-year-old all-rounder.
“If you are number ten in the MVP list in the country and getting 40 or 50 wickets every year, you’ve got to be doing something right,” he said.
“Adil’s been a very fine cricketer for the last four, five, six years. Facing him, he wraps up tails pretty well and can do a containing job as well.
“He also bats and fields, so I think he should be playing at the next level.”