The death of Phillip Hughes a few months ago after he was struck by a bouncer on his neck, put the spotlight on safety in cricket. Although Hughes was wearing a helmet when the incident happened, it was not enough. His death has led helmet manufacturers to design and create helmets which meet the required standard with regards to protection. The type of helmets needed in cricket should provide safety and protection of the whole skull and control the impact of bouncers. The helmet should be attractive without compromising safety and security features. These larger helmets and big grille do not distract (fielders, batsmen, umpires) nor obstruct play. If they did, players wouldn’t be wearing them.
With helmets as the frontrunners of cricket safety as they protect the most delicate parts of the human body, helmet manufactures, players and organisations are the ones who can move cricket safety in the right direction. However, it is up to cricket players whether or not they are open to new safety measures provided by the new helmets.
Helmet manufacturers like Masuri have produced new helmets which aim to protect cricketers from fatal injuries. Until Hughes, the back and sides of the neck were one of the areas manufacturers had overlooked. Even though helmets do their job, injuries still occur.
Although the gap between the helmet and the grille is smaller than the ball, the ball can still squeeze through and hit the face causing fractures. For instance, Stuart Broad broke his nose from a bouncer during a Test match, while he was wearing a helmet. However, because helmets have been modified, the ball can no longer pass or get lodged between the helmet and the grille.
It is not clear on how much of the head needs to be covered and how low the helmet needs to come. However, that’s something cricketers can lend a hand on, because only they know about their comfort.
To their new helmet Masuri added a “StemGuard” at the back of the neck. The clip on which resembles a honeycomb is made from plastic and military specification foam which protects the back of the neck. Although it is plastic, it is strong enough to prevent serious injuries but light enough not to distract the batsman. Even though it will touch the batsman, when the ball hits it will absorb a lot of energy from it.
Some of the cricketers have taken interest in new helmets. Ireland’s John Mooney has altered his helmet for extra protection and has been wearing it during Ireland’s World Cup campaign. Mooney’s cousin did not lose his life, but was involved in a similar incident as Hughes, so he considered his own protection. Since he bats at the death, he faces a lot of short balls and gets hit on the head often, Mooney needed the extra protection.
Mooney calls his invention the “gorget” which is medieval armour which protects the neck and throat. Although it adds more weight to the helmet, there are no distractions when he plays. For now, only Mooney can wear his invention since it hasn’t been fully tested or certified for use.
The ICC Cricket World Cup is where cricketers have shown their interest in the new helmets and new inventions. It’s like all the new and eccentric haircuts – who’s game and who’s not.
During this World Cup, many cricketers are seen sporting the new helmets, while others have stuck to their tried and tested. Besides offering the required protection, the new helmets are pleasing to the eye. They make the cricketers look brighter and sharper.
Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara took it further and became the first cricketer to wear the new “StemGuard” attachment. At the other end of the crease, Tillakaratne Dilshan wore his old, tired looking plastic helmet. Sangakkara wearing the “StemGuard” was seen as him making a statement on player safety. As time goes by, he might be joined by other cricketers such as Angelo Mathews who also wore the “StemGuard” in Sri Lanka’s victory over Scotland.
Although manufacturers have produced new helmets, some cricketers are reluctant to swap the old for the new. They fear the new helmets could affect their eye sight due to height and the grille could be too deep and touch their shoulders. Others are suspicious about their cricket, they don’t want to get out of their comfort zones because change could affect their fate. Cricketers are mindful of what they wear and it’s understandable, but new cricket shots, scoops, bouncers and all sorts of things, then your protection shouldn’t be something worth debating over. With the ever-changing design of the cricket helmet, hopefully cricketers will also change their minds and make cricket a safer sport by using protective gear provided.
Ignorance is bliss
It’s one thing to wear the old helmets which aren’t modified, but it’s a risk not to wear one entirely. You wouldn’t expect cricketers not to wear helmets after what happened to Hughes but guess what, they’re not wearing them. Dilshan is an experienced cricketer but sometimes he doesn’t wear his helmet when batting. He spent his innings against Scotland with his helmet on, with a cap on and without anything on his head. Anything could have happened to him.
Does he trust his strike rate so much, that he is willing to risk his life?
Maybe in addition to the new helmets, cricketers should be obliged to wear helmets when they go out to bat or when the wicketkeeper is close to the stumps.
Cricket safety is a serious matter. So serious that cricket umpires could also be wearing helmets in the near future. Those drives down the ground can cause serious injuries if the umpire doesn’t move out of the way in time.