Nothing sharpens your mind more than facing a bouncer without a helmet

Added protection on the batting helmet of England player Mark Wood. Photo / Getty Images
Added protection on the batting helmet of England player Mark Wood. Photo / Getty Images

Of course, I got injured.

To set the scene. The finer details are not important, save to say it was a club match for my beloved Lydney. I was a professional at the time, in and out of the county first team.

We arrived at the ground to be greeted by the sight of a well-known West Indian fast bowler lining up for the opposition. To say that the laughing stopped would be an understatement.

As we changed, I glanced around my colleagues' kit bags. There was not another batting helmet in sight. I was the only player with one, and yet I was supposed to be the best player.

This seemed palpably unfair. So I resolved not to wear one, even though it was bound to rile our Caribbean friend.

We batted and the bouncers duly flowed, and, yes, I was carried off.

But it was with a badly twisted knee, slipping when my partner maybe preferred not facing the Antiguan, rather than from any blow to the head.

The point? There was a time when batting helmets were not omnipresent, you know. There was a choice, and before that a time of no helmets at all. And that was also a time when head injuries were not omnipresent.

Indeed I did not begin wearing a helmet regularly until becoming a professional. And even then it was initially one without a grille, just ear-pieces. I simply could not get used to the impact it had upon my vision of the ball.

And I was not alone.

Eventually I succumbed to wearing a grille and that problem became easier, but even then a significant gap remained between peak and grille, large enough so that during a net practice in my last season, a team-mate, Alex Wharf, inflicted a nasty gash upon my cheekbone that required numerous stitches.

It was not my decision upon the position of the grille that irked (it was a risk worth taking in my view), more the forgetfulness that Wharf's previous ball had been hooked meatily, so, while other bowlers bowled in between, the next was always going to be considerably quicker.

All this came to mind last week when there was a furore over the helmet being worn by England captain Alastair Cook. Apparently it did not abide by new stipulations of a fixed grille with a smaller gap.

It brought home yet again how much the game has changed. Regulations rule, health and safety reigns.

Everybody, it seems, has to wear a helmet these days, certainly all batsmen, even against spin (given all the sweeping top edges are dangerous), wicketkeepers standing up and sometimes umpires.

And now the England captain, who will probably be remembered ultimately as England's greatest Test batsman, is not permitted to make any risk assessments himself.

Naturally amidst heightened litigiousness and safety-consciousness, one only has to consider the tragic death of Phillip Hughes before aiming any undue querulousness, but I do think it is worth considering the remarkable courage of batsmen from those bygone helmetless days (and I am not referring to my club-cricket antics).

For all of the game's unquestionable advancements and improvements, this is one aspect where even the most modern of advocates must look back with respect and awe.

Mike Atherton has long argued that helmets have been the single most significant change in the game and that statistics before their advent should be separated from those afterwards, and I tend to agree.

Swaying out of the way of wickedly fast bouncers with an unprotected head will never happen again, but I can tell you that it certainly stirred one's fiercest concentration, as well as ensuring that the old maxim of 'watch the ball' was observed religiously.

- Daily Telegraph UK

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 Oct 2016 21:39:10 Processing Time: 920ms