Bruce Oxenford with the shield ahead of 2nd ODI between England and Sri Lanka last month    Getty Images
Bruce Oxenford with the shield ahead of 2nd ODI between England and Sri Lanka last month Getty Images

Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford was lying in his hotel room bed in Delhi some time after his countryman John Ward was injured while umpiring in a Ranji Trophy 2015-16 match. Ward was hospitalised, but he did not suffer any serious injury after being hit by a stroke from Barinder Sran. The injury to Ward, who was in India following an exchange program between India, South Africa and Australia, made Oxenford think about how vulnerable the umpires were, and thus began a journey to one of the most interesting equipments being used in international cricket. ALSO READ: Bruce Oxenford uses protective shield for 1st time in international cricket

Oxenford told the Daily Mail, “I was lying in my hotel bed in Delhi earlier this year when I came up with this idea. My fellow umpire John Ward was on duty in India and had just been hit on the head and badly injured. He was in a bad way. We’d been talking for a long time about how we’re in the firing line and the ball is coming back harder and faster all the time.”

Following that injury, Gerard Abood became the first official to wear a helmet in a Big Bash League (BBL) match. Shortly after that, Ward, who had recovered by then, became the first umpire ever in international cricket to wear a helmet, during an ODI between Australia and India at Canberra.

Oxenford used his equipment during the IPL, a few months later. There’s been talk of helmets but I don’t really want to wear one because I think it will restrict my peripheral vision and hearing and also I don’t think I’m going to get hit in the face. The natural thing is to throw your hands up in front of your face and turn your head away when the ball comes at you but then I thought, ‘What if there’s something like an extended arm guard which would act as a shield?’

“I felt I could make it work. I would be able to do everything I need to do and not get in the way of the bowler. I did a bit of research and looked at polycarbonate, which is basically like bulletproof glass. It’s extremely strong and you couldn’t break it with a sledgehammer. I had people throw cricket balls at me from close range and it stood up to the test. I don’t actually have to move it very far, he explained. ALSO READ: Umpire Bruce Oxenford takes field wearing shield in Gujarat Lions vs Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL 2016 Match

Oxenford continued, “The way I stand, it’s already protecting my chest and upper body and if the ball comes at you it’s really just moving it up a little bit and it covers your face. More people get hit on the body than the head and more deaths have happened in cricket when people have been struck on the body, so this is multi-purpose.”

The equipment garnered a lot of limelight, and Oxenford was happy enjoying the fun around it. “It’s been very good even though a lot of umpires have taken the mickey out of me. Paul Reiffel called me Batfink and Joe Root said I look like Captain America, so I’ve had that sort of stuff, but it’s also been overwhelmingly positive, he said.

A lot of guys have asked me if it will become commercially available and I’ve spoken with Gray-Nicolls about it already. I showed them the first prototype and they’re working on something similar. A lot of guys have told me I should call it the Ox Block, which sounds alright to me, he added.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if every umpire had one in a few years’ time. Personally I just think it’s the sensible thing to do. All in, it cost me $120 to make as a one-off so it would be cheaper if they were made in bulk. I hope it is here to stay.”