The gasp could be heard around the ground as England captain Eoin Morgan dropped his bat following a blow to the helmet from a Mitchell Starc bouncer in the final game of the ODI series at Old Trafford in Lancashire on Sunday.
The concussion suffered by Chris Rogers in June, and of course the inevitable memories of the Phil Hughes tragedy of late 2014, are never far from mind when a batsman is hit.
While Morgan was checked by medical staff on the field before walking from the ground and retiring from the game, Australian bowler, Mitchell Starc was visibly distressed and shaken. He took in deep breaths to maintain his composure, keeping a wary eye on Morgan as he was assessed.
Even as play continued, Starc took his position in the outfield, where Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann walked the perimeter to check on his young paceman and offer support.
As is universally acknowledged, these balls are never bowled with malicious intent and before the sad event of ten months ago, nobody ever seriously considered the potential for fatal outcomes of such deliveries.
Helmets have been worn since the late 1970s when there was a now legendary instance of a broken jaw in one of cricket’s great contests, now viewed in a more sobering light.
Designs have evolved over the years, even modified this year following the death of Phil Hughes, although all accept that was a rare circumstance.
The potential for injury, serious injury, is always there but in fact not common.
The helmet, since its inception, has been seen as sufficient protection against head injury but the game is also evolving with bowlers getting faster and more technically capable in their delivery and targeting of the ball.
Manufacturers and cricket authorities alike attest to the fact there will always be compromise in the design of a helmet, as consideration must be given to the strength of the helmet as a protective device offset by the need for it to be lightweight and comfortable to enable performance.
The safety issues raised by instances like Morgan’s is that of the effects of concussion which often need extended periods of observation for correct diagnosis. Following the Hughes incident, the issue of concussion at junior sport level was again raised for debate.
Concern from both sets of players.September 13, 2015
In junior and school cricket, soft balls are used and the speed of the ball being faced is not considered dangerous. For older children, the ramifications of last year’s accident were felt more strongly, despite having strict regulations on the ball type and equipment to be used in competition.
The reality of this sport is that it involves a small hard projectile being ‘thrown’ at someone, sometimes at incredible speed, with just their wits, a bat, some padding and a helmet to avoid injury. This is the sport of cricket – and sometimes it can be dangerous.