Even as the cricket world and Australia in particular was mourning young cricketer Phillip Hughes’ death, after he was struck by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield match, came the news that an Israeli umpire has been killed after being struck in the face in a league game in the Israeli city of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv.
According to reports, during the league game in Ashdod, after the ball was hit by the batsman, it ricocheted off the stumps and struck the umpire, Hillel Awasker. Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted medics who tried to resuscitate Awasker as saying that he suffered a heart attack after being hit by the ball. Awasker was taken to hospital in a critical condition, and medics were unable to revive him. Awasker, 55, was a former captain of the Israel team. Awasker held a degree in Business Administration, and was married with two daughters.
Like Phil, this too was a rare incident. If Phil’s incident was called a ‘freak incident’ the Israeli Cricket Association called this one which killed Awasker a ‘once-in-a-million’ accident. Yet, it is time for the cricket world to debate hard and intensely about whether umpires should wear helmets on the field. That debate must lead to a conclusion. Strides have been taken to make the game safer for players by introducing guards and helmets. So, why should it be any different for the umpires? Arguments like all sport has an element of risk, do hold water, but to a certain extent. When one can mitigate those risk factors, why not do it?
Today, cricket has become faster than what was played in the past. Shorter forms of the game are all about going for the big hits and slamming the ball to the boundary. The tempo of the game is much, much quicker. So often, we see umpires ducking quickly or moving away from a hard shot by a cricketer. They need to be very quick, but, they may not be fast enough at times, or unfortunate as Awasker was. They need to wear helmets, at least to protect their heads. It is time the International Cricket Council (ICC) starts taking measures to safeguard umpires who stand directly in the line of the ball.