From an unarmed Sunil Gavaskar facing the wrath of Malcolm to an equipped Virat Kohli withstanding the fury of Mitchell Starc– the sport has certainly come a long away, especially in terms of incorporating protective gear into play.
No batsman, at present, can imagine the consequences of facing a flurry of fierce bouncers while being at the crease. Injuries are certainly part and parcel of the sport. But there’s no point in suffering scornful injuries, which eventually put a player’s life and career at stake.
It’s not a delightful sight to watch any batsman being floored after facing a plunging bouncer, especially when the repercussions are grave. The tragic death of Phil Hughes was one of those incidents when the entire world mourned. The Australian, after being struck in the back off Sean Abbott’s bouncer, collapsed on the spot to never stand on his feet again.
Along with a radical change in the game’s tactics, techniques and traditions, the usage of a helmet has become as important as ever for every artillery. But many would wonder how did the experiment of donning a helmet slowly became an indivisible part of the game.
Patsy Hendren resorted to a protective cap made by his wife
It’s rather unclear which player was the first one to embrace the idea of using protective gear for his head. But the first known instance when a player stunned everyone by walking in with a helmet was in the 1930s. An intriguing Pasty Hendren grabbed eyeballs by taking guard while wearing a first specially designed protective headgear.
As Hendren’s compatriots would call it, the helmet was a ‘three-peaked cap’, constituting three peaks as opposed to a normal cap. The England stalwart’s move was a sensible one, considering the world was still recovering from the barrage of the Bodyline series. The helmet was designed by Hendren’s wife Minnie.
The reaction to Hendren’s ‘three-peaked cap’ move wasn’t very flattering but who would’ve thought that the entire world will eventually follow his footsteps. The lifespan of Hendren’s peculiar helmet turned out to be very short as he had to walk back to the pavilion after being dismissed by Constantine for 7.
Hendren’s decision was involved from his past experience of suffering injuries on the head. Lamenting over his ‘safe’ move, he said, “The people can say what they like. I have been hit on the head four times, once by a Larwood bouncer in 1931 which caused a wound in which six stitches were inserted. I am still suffering recurrent headaches due to that bashing. Believe me, I’m taking no more risks.”
Dennis Amiss used a bike helmet during WSC
The second breakthrough in the cricket helmet saga came in the 1970s when another Pom Dennis Amiss decided to brace the protective gear. Amiss’ walked while wearing a customized fiber-glass motorcycle helmet during World Series Cricket (WSC) in 1977.
The England international was unperturbed by the crowd’s boos as his prime objective behind wearing the helmet was to protect himself against West Indies’ lethal bowling force. A peculiar feature about Amiss’ helmet was its visor, which even stopped a Wayne Prior delivery from knocking off the English veteran’s teeth.
“I went to a motorcycle helmet manufacturer, and he came up with something lighter than the fibreglass motorcycle helmets around in those days and had a visor that could withstand a shotgun blast at 10 yards,” Amiss reminisced the incident while speaking to The Telegraph in 2005.
Graham Yallop was the first to use a helmet in international cricket
The final piece in the jigsaw puzzle was slotted in by Australia’s Graham Yallop against West Indies. In 1978, the world witnessed an astronaut walking in the middle at Bridgetown before realizing that it was Yallop and his spacesuit-resembling headgear.
The Bob Simpson-led Australian side had a herculean task to endure a dominant West Indies bowling force, which comprised the likes of Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner. Yallop, as obvious, was booed but that was the emergence of the practice of using helmets on the international stage.
Though Dennis Amiss was the first to use the helmet extensively in World Series Cricket, Yallop was the initiator of inducing the innovation in international cricket. The batting averages, strokeplay, footwork and temperament– the dynamics of the game took a whole new turn by the emergence of safety gears. As legend would have it, a few extra ounces on your head is always a better choice than a curtailed life.
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