It is rarely acknowledged that cricket is a dangerous sport, mainly because of the ball’s solidity and the speed with which it’s hurled about often.
Despite 140-plus years of evolution, the sport still witnesses injuries, caused by the ball, that end careers and, sometimes, even lives. Such injuries at the game’s highest level are rare. And, today’s protective gears – used by batsmen, close-in fielders and, even, on-field umpires – have drastically reduced the risk of serious physical damage. Yet the bowler is largely unprotected to the ball-related injuries, especially in the era of T20, wherein the shots played are often fierce and fast.
Case in point: Pacer Ashok Dinda getting hit on the forehead during a practice match in Kolkata earlier this week.
The injury, fortunately, was not serious. But it has evoked fear in compatriot Jaydev Unadkat – also a fast-bowler – who has proposed a face-mask for bowlers, which was seconded by Ravichandran Ashwin.
Unadkat’s proposed solution isn’t radical. It’s already in practice. New Zealand club Otago Volts’ pacer Warren Barnes, after nearly getting hit several times, started bowling with a customised face-mask last year.
“There have been huge changes to protect batters and umpires. For bowlers it’s the next step,” he was quoted by BBC.
Barnes’ mask is similar to the ones worn by field hockey players during defence of penalty corners. “At the start it wasn’t very comfortable and it moved around quite a bit,” he said.
“I bowled quite a lot with it in the nets but it was quite hard not to think about it when I was playing in games. I took it back to the guy, he trimmed it a bit, made it a bit lighter and so I could tighten it more and after that it was actually quite good.”
In 2016, Australia’s John Ward became the first umpire to wear a helmet in an international match during the fourth ODI between Australia and India at Manuka Oval. His compatriot, Bruce Oxenford, in the same year, started wearing a transparent arm shield. We will perhaps soon witness bowlers wearing face-protection gears.