The new generation of cricket bats has heightened the excitement levels as batsmen are able to pummel the bowlers at will. The bat, indeed, has become a weapon of mass destruction – in more ways than one. While it destroying bowlers on the one hand, on the other it poses a grave risk for the umpires, whose alacrity and fitness levels is obviously not at the same level with the younger players.
Slow-mo replays have shown how close the missile has come in knocking off an umpire’s head. In fact, even spectators sitting far away from the middle are not safe from these flying missiles. Recently, a Chris Gayle six broke a young girl’s nose in an IPL game. The kid had to be hospitalised.
One has seen non-strikers getting falling on their backs to get out of the way of a scud missile directed to the straight field. The reaction time for the umpire or the non-striker is microseconds.
The need is increasingly felt for umpires to don helmets to prevent a fatal injury from such blows. John Steele, a county stalwart turned first-class umpire, said he wears a box while umpiring.
International Cricket Council umpire Asad Rauf said in a recent interview, “The kind of shots that batsmen play these days, we’re seriously thinking of demanding protective gear for the umpires. Very few people think about this, but even the umpires have to work hard to maintain a standard of fitness. If the players have to play for six hours, we too have to stand for the same time on the field. In modern times we have to work a bit harder on that aspect.”
It is time that the International Cricket Council (ICC) thinks about these officials who protect the spirit of the game and safeguard the traditions.