Hughes incident needs to raise questions

It seems a safe and simple job. One person throws a ball to another person, who in turn has to hit it as far as possible. No risk there, surely? Well, Phil Hughes’ incident is a stark reminder that cricket can indeed be dangerous. And it also raises the question – should more be done to protect players?

Phil Hughes is an Australian Test and One-Day International cricketer who made his debut for the national team in 2009. The 25-year-old was at the crease for South Australia in their Sheffield Shield Match against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground, when a bouncer from Sean Abbott struck the back, lower left side of his head. Hughes is in a critical condition, fighting for his life, after trying to avoid the short ball which inadvertently hit him.

And whilst everyone is praying for his condition to improve, the investigation needs to begin: how can this happen and how can it be avoided in the future? Although this is the first time since helmets were introduced in the 1970’s that a batsman has been left in a critical condition after a fast bowl, there have been incidents in the past. In 2006, Justin Langer was hit on the head by a bouncer and was hospitalised. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was also knocked unconscious from a Brett Lee bouncer.

We need to remember that these balls are being bowled at near to 100 mph and can cause damage. The Telegraphs Seyld Berry has said that the best comparison to facing a fast bowl would be to ask someone to throw a stone at your head from 20 yards.

Kevin Pietersen claimed in his new book that he and his England teammates were terrified at the ferocity in which Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson pitched during the recent Ashes series.

Of course, Phil Hughes will receive a full range of support in aiding his recovery, but let’s also spare a thought for the bowler. Sean Abbott has been cleared of any wrongdoing. After all, he was just doing his job. But he will be feeling guilty for his part in the incident and should receive full support from cricket’s elite in making sure that he makes a mental recovery.

So what can be done? Hughes was caught at the back of the head, on a part the helmet does not cover. A simple alternative would be to increase the length of the helmet at the back, however if this simple step seems as simple as it is, would it not have been done already?

Maybe a more realistic improvement would be to restrict how a bouncer is bowled. A bouncer is a fast bowled delivery which is pitched short in order for the ball to rear up to the chest or head of the batsman. The ICC have already restricted the use of bouncers when in the early 90’s, they ruled ‘one bouncer per batsman per over’. When this was introduced, it received criticism from players and officials around the world. Since then, the rule has been relaxed and intensified regularly. However, maybe now people will begin to realise the damage it can do and the need for restriction.

Action will be taken and rules should be tightened, but for now the cricket world has its mind focused on one of its competitors. And prayers will be said so that this incident serves as just a warning rather than a tragedy.

Picture Credit: Dan Heap 

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