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Safer helmets head too slowly to cricketers

In 2012, fourteen years after the first major International Cricket Council-backed meeting on safety standards of the helmet was held, a panel including manufacturers and ex-cricketers met to decide on fresh safety specifications for a protective gear used not just by batsmen but close-in fielders and wicketkeepers as well.

cricket Updated: Nov 29, 2014 02:46 IST
Khurram Habib
Phil Hughes

In 2012, fourteen years after the first major International Cricket Council-backed meeting on safety standards of the helmet was held, a panel including manufacturers and ex-cricketers met to decide on fresh safety specifications for a protective gear used not just by batsmen but close-in fielders and wicketkeepers as well.

Following a series of meetings that went on until 2013, they all agreed that the helmet required modifications. The major concern was the gap between grille and peak as the ball had slipped through on a number of occasions in the past decade, injuring players. The shocking death of Australian batsman Phil Hughes on Thursday, two days after being struck by a bouncer, has renewed concerns about the effectiveness of current helmets, especially as they expose the neck area.

Slow to adapt

But it appears newer helmet specifications are not being rigorously imposed. "The new specifications came in 2013 and it was decided that the manufacturers had to implement them from June 2014, without fail," says Delhi-based helmet manufacturer Virender Nagpal, who attended the meeting in 2012. "The major focus was of course the grille, but there were other issues too."

Manufacturers Masuri have said they introduced their improved New Vision Series helmet a year back - ones that conform to the latest standards and have better neck protection. But not all helmet-makers have been adhering to latest specifications when it comes to supplying them to players. India's stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, for example, uses the Masuri model which Hughes was wearing, with his sponsor's sticker on it. It is learnt that Rohit Sharma too has been using the same model. Cheteshwar Pujara has been wearing the same model but made by an Indian company, which used to make them for Masuri.

Shikhar Dhawan switched to the New Vision Series during the recent ODI series in England, along with R Ashwin. But many India players use helmets that don't meet the latest specifications. Considering that they will spend 3-4 months in Australia, it should be of concern to them and cricket officials back home.

Recall old ones

Virat's longtime coach Rajkumar Sharma says, "The manufacturers should be taken to task. Why are they not implementing the specifications, recall old ones and stop making the old model? Just like vehicle manufacturers recalling old models following a defect, helmet-makers should also be asked to do so." Lack of strictures and penalties is one reason why helmet-makers have been slow to implement new specifications.

Another important aspect is player comfort. The latest version is at least one-and-half times heavier. "You can't blame the manufacturers. A lot of players stick to the old version because they have developed a comfort level. It is also lighter than those conforming to latest standards," says Nagpal, whose company makes helmets for GM and Slazenger, and used to make for Albion, a one-time favourite with India players, including Virat.