The >passing away of Australia’s Phil Hughes last November after being hit on the head by a short ball, left the >cricket world distraught and acutely aware of the >very real dangers of playing the game . The >death this week of 20-year-old Ankit Keshri in Kolkata was a tragic reminder of life’s inherent frailty even when engaged in a non-contact sport considered reasonably safe. The former captain of the Bengal under-19 team had collided with a teammate while attempting to take a catch during a Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) Division-I match between East Bengal and Bhowanipore. He had stopped breathing briefly and was rushed to hospital where he died of cardiac arrest. >Collision between fielders going for the same catch isn’t uncommon on a cricket field. Former Australian captain Steve Waugh and fast-bowler Jason Gillespie once had to be airlifted to hospital during a Test match in Sri Lanka after a tangle that left the former with a broken nose and the latter with a fractured shin. There have been other injuries and near-misses. But Keshri, like Hughes, was a victim of freakish misfortune; the cricket community is attempting to come to terms with the apparent randomness of it all.
How the incident affects the game — or indeed if it does — remains to be seen. After Hughes’s death, cricket appeared to briefly grapple with its relevance and >paused to mourn . Although the game eventually moved on, as it inevitably must, there were signs right through the Australian summer that Hughes will not be forgotten. A significant development was the >review of protective equipment : the modern-day batsman and close-in fielder had seemed so well-armoured that fatalities on the field of play appeared inconceivable, but the accident forced equipment manufacturers and cricketers to innovate and evolve; during the recent World Cup, >helmet designs that better protected the back of the head and the neck were seen. An increased emphasis on helmets in junior cricket was expected. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is the case. The psychological aspect was attended to as well, with Cricket Australia offering its cricketers professional support and counselling. >Sean Abbott , who delivered the ball to Hughes, returned to cricket and is currently involved in the Indian Premier League. The Board of Control for Cricket in India must be similarly considerate and proactive. It has asked the CAB to investigate whether Keshri’s death was the result of negligence or lack of facilities. It must ensure that the State units follow the appropriate medical protocols in all domestic matches under their purview to make cricket a safer game.