mid-day editorial: Make helmets a must for umpires

It’s been a year since Australian batsman Phillip Hughes succumbed to his head injury and the red cricket ball has not stopped seriously hurting the practitioners of the game.

Five months after Hughes’ death, 20-year-old Bengal batsman Ankit Keshri, playing a club match in Kolkata, collided with a teammate while going for a catch and hurt his head. He passed away three days later. Keshri had enough promise to be called a future first-class batsman.

On Tuesday, Australian umpire John Ward was struck on his head by a Punjab batsman in a Ranji Trophy game in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. Luckily for Ward, the blow did not prove fatal.

Yes, even accidents can be avoided and it is high time the International Cricket Council urges their affiliates to make it mandatory for umpires to wear protective head gear. If wicketkeepers can cope with helmets while standing up to spinners, so can umpires, and tradition shouldn’t come in the way. In a different era, umpires always adorned white coats. In fact, they were known as the ‘men in white coats’, but now they don’t always wear them.

Batsmen are more aggressive than before, through the advent of Twenty20 cricket, which is based on power-hitting. Everyone had better watch out, including the umpires. Another threat comes in the form of modern bats which are becoming more destructive by the day. If a top edge can sail into the stands, what stops a well timed straight hit from striking the umpire? The bowlers are in the firing line too, and, hopefully, none of them get seriously injured on their follow through. To term this ‘an accident waiting to happen’ sounds harsh, but it’s true.

There is a need for a lot more discussion and action to make cricket a safer sport.

The best brains in the corridors of power have their task cut out and they don’t need more examples after Tuesday’s incident involving Mr Umpire.

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