Cricket can be a dangerous sport. We only have to look to incidents in recent years to understand how hazardous it can get. Who can forget the horrific injuries Stuart Broad suffered in 2014 when struck in the face by a Varun Aaron bouncer? Injuries to his nose and eyes left him shaken for matches to come, with his confidence clearly shaken. While we all know that head injuries can be traumatic to the player, the laws previously stated that if a player comes off because of concussion – or expected concussion – the team loses a player without replacement. Finally, the ICC is making some much needed changes to the rules – and in my opinion, it couldn’t come soon enough.
Concussion replacements will now be available for the first time in English county cricket during the 2018 season. This now means that teams will be able to replace a player who has concussion or a suspected concussion.
But, there are catches. The substitute will be eligible to bat and bowl in the game, so long as they are deemed a ‘like for like’ replacement by match officials. This rule essentially means that the substitution must aim to replace the resource lost by the affected side- but not so much that they are advantaged by a concussion replacement. By doing so, the safety of the player is put first, rather than using the swap as a tactical advantage. Should the injured player be a specialist batsman, their team would not gain permission to replace him with a specialist bowler. This decision will be made by the Cricket Liaison Officer or the umpire if a Liaison Officer isn’t present.
For me, this change is absolutely welcome. Although some may say that there are other more dangerous sports out there, such as rugby, the health and safety of the players must be taken into account at all times. Dangerous accidents can happen – and it’s the job of cricket’s officials to minimise any risk after they do.
All of these changes are of course following Sam Harper’s high-profile injury. The diminutive wicketkeeper, one of the most highly-rated young wicketkeepers in the country playing in just his sixth first-class game, was felled in a “freak accident” when South Australia’s Jake Lehmann inadvertently collected him in the helmet with his bat. After weeks in the hospital, something still wasn’t right for Victoria player Harper. Basic tasks had become a chore. After some time, Harper thankfully recovered – yet his concussion opened a much wider debate.
His team, Victoria, weren’t allowed to make a replacement for Harper. This meant Victoria had to play out the match with 10 men, with the Bushrangers players publicly questioned why they had been denied a replacement. CA clarified the match would have lost its first-class status with points forfeited had a replacement been used. This led many players, officials, coaches and fans to question the rule that seemed detrimental to the safety of the players and the spirit of cricket.
With these rules now coming into place, cricket is sure to become a safer and fairer game. I, for one, believe that this is a great step forward for the sport. We know accidents happen – Stuart Broad and Sam Harper are just 2 examples of that. Moving forward, we need to know that players are protected and injuries aren’t disadvantages. Cricket is a great competition – let’s keep it that way!