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Sunday, December 13, 2015

need for helmet on Cricket field too ~ and an Umpire wears it in Vijay Hazare trophy

John David Ward from Melbourne made his debut in an ODI between Australia & England at Brisbane in Jan 2014 and last stood in the match between England & India at Perth in Jan 2015.   Those of us following domestic Cricket especially Tamil Nadu’s fortunes would have heard of him !!! … do you observe anything odd with this photo ?

In Cricket, the Umpire holds an exalted position – he stands in the best position to watch and judge and his decision is final [forget the referrals !] – in yesteryears, the crowds would come alive, the moment they can sight the two gentleman taking that walk to the middle.  A good Umpire has to see the bowler’s delivery stride, checking whether he is overstepping, follow the ball to decide on whether it would otherwise have disturbed the wicket, takes the edge, whether the ball is caught cleanly, whether it crosses the boundary, whether the fielder’s body is well within when stopping / catching – and when the throw comes in, stands in a position to decide whether stumps are broken before the bat or any part of the body is within the crease !....   Sometimes, when the ball is fiercely struck back [mostly lofted shots] – they have to duck or take evasive action swiftly, to avoid getting injured. A Swarup Kishan or somebody with bulky frame doing that often would invite laughter from the crowds. !

Viv Richards faced Thomson & Lillee at their peak and other pacers like Snow, Willis, Botham, Imran, Sarfraz, Kapil, Hadlee and others –without ever wearing a helmet.  Sunil Gavaskar who had the best defence could play the best of fast bowlers on a pacy track wearing a Panama hat [towards the end of his career, he wore a skull cap.  Unfortunate Phillip Hughes will forever be 63 not out after the official scorecard for his final match was adjusted by Cricket Australia. Hughes was listed as 'retired hurt' after he was struck on the head,  rushed to hospital; passed away two days later, leading to an outpouring of grief across the sporting world.  Hughes was not the first – remember Raman Lamba !

Modern batsman wear protective gear – helmet, arm guard, chest guards, extra protection in pad and more – proper, nothing wrong with that.  Who else would wear helmet ? – the close in fielders : forward shortleg, Silly point & … [Eknath Solkar who would stand in handshaking distance never wore one !] ….and some wicket keepers do wear helmet when standing to spinners with balls bouncing – some like Mark Boucher, Saba Karim were struck by spinners forcing them to retire.  Imagine an Umpire wearing a helmet ???

Umpire Pashchim Girish Pathak, who hails from Mumbai and who has been in service for six years, has come up with a safety measure not very often seen in cricket, during a domestic match in India. The rare sight of an umpire wearing a helmet – the first in the country –  occurred  this week in Karnataka during the ongoing league matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Pathak was at the square leg position during the recent Ranji Trophy match in Tamil Nadu, which had seen a shot hit the back of Umpire’s head  ~ the man  survived the blow, but the sight of the prostrate umpire had sent shockwaves.
A  few days later, in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy that has since then begun, Pathak entered the field wearing a helmet – so that the horrific scene does not come to pass again. He wore it first on Thursday while standing for the Kerala-Haryana match, and has been wearing it since then. Pathak explained the move to Mirror: "Post Phil Hughes incident and the death of an umpire in Israel, I had been thinking of wearing some kind of protective gear but wasn't too sure how wearing a helmet will feel.  “The sound of the ball hitting him (Ward) was scary. I thought that his skull has opened up. The way he collapsed, it sent shivers down my spine. It was at this moment that I thought I am definitely going to wear a helmet during my next assignment.

Saying that the helmet does not hinder him from spotting no balls or to move his neck, Pathak also refused the notion that the move was one born out of fear. "The best of batsmen wear helmets and one doesn't say that they do so because they fear the fast bowlers. They are just taking precautions. I am not afraid of the ball but just protecting myself. There are some umpires who wear abdomen guard during T20 games.”

Earlier this year, former Australian umpire Simon Taufel had said on-field match officials might use helmets in the future.  Discussions for umpire protection have been ongoing in recent times, with baseball-style helmets and even chest guards being suggested in the new age of hard hitting cricket. Sydney grade cricket umpire Karl Wentzel is known for wearing a helmet after losing five teeth when he was hit in the face by the ball in 2001.

Recently when Chennai and most parts of Tamil Nadu were havocked by heavy rains and flood waters – Tamil Nadu played Punjab in a Ranji tie at Dindigul and lost badly making 68 & 69.  In the 48th over of Punjab’s innings,  Brainder Sran hit one off DT Chandrasekar – reportedly  a loud sound was heard as the ball struck the skull of the umpire John Ward of Australia.  He fell down and remained motionless for a few minutes. The whole crowd gasped and stood numb in shock for a while, till Paschim Pathak, the square-leg umpire, and the players raced towards Ward.  Soon an ambulance was driven inside the boundary ropes too. It took some tense  minutes before the ambulance could start on its way to the nearest hospital, which is 30 kms away, but thankfully Ward was seen to be back on his feet by this time.

It was described as : “Ward thought he could stop the ball with his hand, so he put his hand up. Unfortunately, he lost sight of the ball and then had no choice but to duck. If the ball was hit slower, he might have been able to get out of the way but it was too fast.” Fortunately, no serious damage, and Ward is alright.  Ward has been officiating in India as part of the umpires exchange programme between BCCI and Cricket Australia.

The Port of Ashdod is one of Israel's two main cargo ports. The port is located  about 40 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, adjoining the mouth of the Lachish River.  Ashdod  is the fifth-largest city in Israel, on the Mediterranean coast.   I had posted on this place as an Umpire  Hillel Awaskar was hit  in the neck, possibly after a ricochet from the stumps at his end of the pitch. The incident occurred  just two days after Australian batsman Phillip Hughes died of a head injury caused by being struck by a ball at a match in Sydney. Hillel Awaskar,  reportedly a person of  Indian-origin, according to Israeli news  suffered a heart attack after being hit by the ball and sadly died at the hospital. 

Those watching domestic Cricket 0r have been part of various league teams – do know well of the availability of safety equipments and the medical aid that is available !

With regards – S.  Sampathkumar
13th Dec 2015.

Collated from various sources : Yahoo; smh.com.au, Mumbai mirror (Photo credit too) and Indian Express  + more.

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