Ryan Duffy may become a poster child for change in New Zealand first-class cricket.

The 25-year-old Otago batsman was hit on the helmet by Auckland pace bowler Lockie Ferguson in the opening innings of their Plunket Shield match at Eden Park on October 29. The ball crashed into the stumps and Duffy exited for 18, leaving Otago 53 for 2. They were dismissed for 164.

Duffy underwent a Scat (standardised concussion assessment tool) test and did not return for the remainder of the match. Otago went on to lose by two wickets but, through the sport's archaic protocols, they were not allowed a batting substitution.

First-class cricket across the world prevents that happening, despite codes such as rugby, league and football adopting such measures for generations.


Moves are afoot to make changes regarding replacements, yet the International Cricket Council appear reactive rather than proactive, at best, and reluctant, at worst.

The ICC's Cricket Committee, on which New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White sits, met in May, when the matter was on the agenda.

The committee's response, recorded in an "outcomes" release after the meeting, was as follows: "The committee considered a proposal from Cricket Australia for a 'concussion substitute' to be trialled for two years in domestic first-class cricket.

"The committee acknowledged the seriousness of the issue of concussion in cricket, and stressed the need for consistent concussion policy to be implemented in all countries, but its view was that the current laws and playing conditions allow players to receive the best possible medical treatment, and further change to the regulations in this area is not required at present."

Cricket Australia have introduced a concussion substitution rule for the Big Bash League and domestic one-day competition, according to a recommendation from the independent review into Phillip Hughes' death.

Asked whether NZC might adopt a similar policy, White said: "There was some discussion over the winter but I think, at that point, no decision was made. Now we've had a few incidents, everyone is starting to talk about it a bit more. I imagine it will be on the table in the next few weeks."

It needs to be. It seems an incomplete process when such a concerted effort is made to remove players when heads or helmets are hit, yet no initiative has been taken to counter that with replacements.

Taken to its cynical extreme, bowlers could target the heads of batsmen knowing the consequences as they stand. New Zealand Cricket Players' Association chief executive Heath Mills said they support substitutions.

"Concussion is a significant injury with lifelong effects. There are much better protocols with New Zealand Cricket removing players from the field, but it still disadvantages a team.

"The time has come to allow substitutes for concussion. In the past, players would carry on, but now they are removed from the game.

"Cricket needs to do the right thing from a health and wellbeing perspective and be progressive."

To make the situation work, perhaps it simply requires a doctor or an appropriate match official to offer an independent judgement on medical care.