Injury opens debate on dangers of cricket

Updated - November 17, 2021 11:06 am IST

Published - November 26, 2014 12:15 am IST

The sickening head injury left Australia batsman Phillip Hughes in critical condition on Tuesday. File photo

The sickening head injury left Australia batsman Phillip Hughes in critical condition on Tuesday. File photo

An overwhelming sense of shock and distress engulfed the International cricketing community after Australian cricketer Phil Hughes, struck by a bouncer, was in a critical condition at a Sydney hospital on Tuesday.

Even as there was outpouring of sympathy, ABC News struck a jarring note. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Australian national broadcaster’s Twitter account was bombarded by outraged followers after it tweeted that “Cricket NSW could not confirm if Phil Hughes was alive when he left the SCG.”

Meanwhile, the seriousness of Hughes’s injury has triggered a debate on whether cricket is a dangerous sport. “Nobody outside the changing room witnesses what happens to an average batsman’s body on an average day facing fast bowling,” wrote Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Players know, and it is a shame that the machismo of elite sport places a veil of secrecy over the ever-present dangers they face.”

However, former India cricketer Arun Lal said he wouldn’t make any adjustments to the sport.

“It’s a sad occurrence, but I don’t believe cricket is dangerous. In a span of 30 years, you can name only a couple of grievous injuries, like in the case of Raman Lamba. In every other contact sport, there is always the off chance that somebody will and can get hurt. Even during the Bodyline series, not many suffered serious injuries,” he told The Hindu.

Lal ruled out any misplaced notions of valour in how batsmen such as Vivian Richards played without the helmet. “It was a transition time…when helmets were introduced. In fact, I never wore a visor as I couldn’t sight the ball. It hadn’t anything to do with machismo. The fact was I wasn’t used to wearing it.”

However, the quantum of risk, Lal said, had diminished dramatically with the introduction of the helmet.

“There was an enormous feeling of security when you had your helmet on. Within four or five matches of using it, I wouldn’t play without it. I was hit by a Patrick Patterson bouncer right in the middle of the forehead. If it weren’t for the helmet, I would have been dead and buried. There is a case for making helmets compulsory,” he said.

It isn’t a particularly rare sight to see a fast bowler who inflicts the ‘damage’ with a bouncer being visibly overcome with remorse at the sight of the injured batsman.

Former India speedster Javagal Srinath said no bowler was out there to hurt the batsman.

“It’s a not a pleasant feeling to see someone get hit. Aggression is important, but the bowler’s intention is not to cause bodily harm. The bouncer is only a part of a strategy to get a batsman out,” he said.

The president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, Anthony Cross, was quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald thatthe hardness of cricket balls made them a common cause of sports injuries at hospital emergency departments, but most injuries were not as serious as that apparently suffered by Hughes because of the full helmets worn.

The pertinent question is what constitutes ‘danger’ in cricket. For most cricketers, or practitioners of any professional outdoor sport for that matter, the threshold for physical pain is set at a different level than in normal cases.

Lal’s remark, perhaps, best reveals the mindset of the average cricketer. “In cricket, when you are hit on the chest or shoulder, you don’t call it an injury.”

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