Cricket has come so far from the early days of underarm bowling to now having one of the biggest leagues in the world. In that time the game has become shorter, faster, and safer. What used to be a good score in ODI is now chaseable even in the T20s, such has been the change in the pace of the sport. In earlier days, the batsman was asked if he has indeed knicked the ball into the keeper gloves and the umpire gave a decision based on that. Now however every wicket and run counts and nothing is given to the other team. Batsmen used to not take further runs if there was a fielding mistake. The fielders used to let the ball go if it seemed difficult to stop. Now, however, every overthrow or miss field is turned into extra runs and fielding has arguably seen the biggest jump in quality. We see players like AB DeVilliers catch the ball in incredibly tough situations. Fielders like Jadeja could probably get into any former side on the back of just his brilliant fielding and nothing else.
The Mankading which was seen as something against the ethics of the game is now a perfectly acceptable runout. The point I’m getting at is, in this day and age of fast-paced cricket you still see batsmen batting with a cap on! The ball is flying from all around the ground towards the batsmen in a T20 and the batsman stands there will a thin cloth around his head. Look at this video of Vijay Shankar being hit on the head while taking a run in this year’s IPL. If there was a spinner bowling and Shankar was donning a cap, the incident would have gone very differently.
Another instance where a batsman was hit on the head while taking a run was from a match between SRH and RR when Dhawal Kulkarni was hit on the back of his head. Thankfully he was wearing a helmet and came out unscathed. In both instances, the batsmen could have died if they were wearing caps which many batsmen do even in T20s.
Is it compulsory to wear a helmet in cricket?
As of February 2022, No! It is not mandatory to wear helmets in international cricket. Batsmen and fielders chose on their own if they want to wear a helmet when playing. This is why you see batsmen and wicketkeepers don caps when facing spinners of medium pacers.
The England Cricket Board ECB however has mandated helmets for all batsmen, wicketkeepers and fielders closer than 8 yards from the wicket for all first-class games. None of the cricket boards has made it mandatory for players to wear helmets in international matches. Even T20 leagues like IPL, BPL and others have not mandated the use of helmets by batsmen.
Why some batsmen don’t wear helmets?
Historically some batsmen did not wear helmets because they did not grow up wearing them. Helmets are heavy and they restrict movement and visibility to a certain degree, so playing while wearing a helmet if you have not done it previously would be cumbersome. This is why batsmen like Sunil Gavaskar did not wear them which earned him accolades as one of the most fearless batsmen in cricket.
Modern helmets have become very light compared to those of yesteryears but they are still heavier than a cap or wearing nothing. The evolution of helmets have brought out a great change in terms of strength, feel and weight, but if given the choice players would still prefer to play without one. In regions like India, wearing helmets in the summer heat makes players sweat like a waterfall.
This is why you see many of them remove the helmet altogether when they face a spinner or medium pacer. This is because spinners and medium pacers cannot generate enough bounce to reach batsmen’s heads.
Increased risk of injury in T20
The game of cricket has been massively overhauled. It is no longer that slow and laid back sport that everyone associated it with. With the advent of T20, the game of cricket has become a fast-paced sport akin to football where players run, jump, catch, slide and do anything to make and stop runs. Today, batsmen are at risk of being hit not just when facing a ball from the bowler but also when taking runs, standing at the non strikers end and being in the general vicinity of the pitch.
This is why wearing a helmet in today’s game is very very important. As the risk of getting hit by a ball is increasing day by day, it would be foolish to go out there without protective headgear. It is no surprise that Tendulkar has urged the ICC to make helmets mandatory for batsmen before something bad happens to any of the players. Today when the game’s pace has gone up a few notches, wearing a cap while batting seems incredibly dangerous and should be banned for the benefit of everyone.
Mandating helmet use by batsmen and keepers at all times is the only solution to a safer and entertaining cricket in the future.