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Australia

Protecting the next generation of cricket stars

A GENERATION of players brought up with protective equipment as the norm, rather than the exception, is making for a safer future for thousands of cricketers.

Sunshine Coast Cricket Association media officer, statistician and life member Pat Drew said most first division players now had come through the ranks playing with helmets since the age of 12.

He said the changes to safety in the game, even at a grassroots level, over the past 20 years was “amazing”.

Mr Drew said they’d found it was the older players, often in the more social, lower divisions, who were hesitant to use helmets, neck protection and other modern safety measures.

Maroochydore Cricket Club junior co-ordinator Chris Baker said a new ruling had enforced a British standard on all helmets, to do with the grill, to ensure the ball couldn’t squeeze between the cap and the grill and hit a player’s face.

Australia's Steve Smith hits a ball from England's Jofra Archer during play on day four of the 2nd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia at Lord's cricket ground in London, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Australia's Steve Smith hits a ball from England's Jofra Archer during play on day four of the 2nd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia at Lord's cricket ground in London, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

He said a memo had been sent out to all clubs a couple of months ago about the ruling, advising them they had to comply with the British standard.

He understood there was also a push to have seniors adopt the ruling.

He said the British standard not only protected the face with the grill, but it provided better cover behind the ears.

Mr Baker said they tended to buy helmets with bolted-on grills, rather than the old screw-on type, as it provided even better protection for young batsmen, or wicket keepers standing up to the stumps.

He knew of some youngsters who were wearing neck protection now as well.

It was mandatory for juniors to wear helmets.

Australia's Steve Smith receives treatment as lies on the ground after being hit on the head by a ball bowled b England's Jofra Archer during play on day four of the 2nd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia at Lord's cricket ground in London, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Australia's Steve Smith receives treatment as lies on the ground after being hit on the head by a ball bowled b England's Jofra Archer during play on day four of the 2nd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia at Lord's cricket ground in London, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Mr Baker said talking to first and second-grade players at the club, most of them were wearing helmets too, but they were also the players with the sharpest reflexes, compared to some of their older, more social divisions.

Mr Drew said a serious head knock in cricket was a “very rare injury”.

“But obviously it can be fatal,” he said.

He said it was quite tough for clubs to tell amateur cricketers what to do, when it came to enforcing safety measures, and it was something that may be more successful coming from the top down, when it came to generating sweeping changes to safety.

One way it could be done, he said, was for helmet manufacturers to simply make the neck protection a standard fixture on new helmets in future.

“It’s (safety) not something a bowler really thinks about,” Mr Drew said.

“They’re not bowling short to hurt someone.

“They do it to influence a certain shot.”

Pat Drew Sunshine Coast Cricket WARREN LYNAM / SUNSHINE COAST DAILY

Pat Drew Sunshine Coast Cricket WARREN LYNAM / SUNSHINE COAST DAILY

But with the safety advances came changes in player behaviour too.

Mr Drew said he played most of his cricket without a helmet, and back then, players had to rely on evasion techniques for self-preservation.

He said these days he saw multiple generations of players who will stand and put themselves in harm’s way, unafraid of being hit, which had bred a more attacking style of player against short-pitched bowling.

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