“The helmet is one of the greatest assets that a cricketer can have” is an undeniable statement by Matthew Hayden. Helmets and their importance were realized in the later years as cricket was initially played with underarm bowling which did not instigate lethal bounce. The introduction of over-arm bowling and the arrival of fierce pacers led to the batsman worrying for their safety.
Early Stages of Cricket Helmet Development
Reportedly, Patsy Hendren used a protective hat in 1930 when he entered to bat. Despite such instances, no one realized the importance of helmets in cricket. Almost 40 years later, Deniss Amiss went to wear a motorcycle-style helmet which turned out to be an iconic one for the record books.
His move was influential as many cricketers began using helmets immediately. The helmets back then protected only the skull portion, leaving the face unprotected. The first protective helmet was worn by Graham Yallop, an Australian batsman in 1978. A coin has two sides, similarly, there were batsmen who wore self-designed helmets and there were others who failed to recognize the importance of a helmet.
Yet, Sir Vivian Richards was the only batsman who retired without wearing helmets in any of his career matches.
Introduction Of Experimental Helmets
From protective hats to motorcycle helmets, the cricket fraternity has witnessed all. Helmets were totally uncommon and unique in the 20th century. The motorcycle helmet was heavier and had a glass shield to protect the face.
Dennis Amiss and the First Commercially Successful Helmet
Deniss Amiss is a former English cricketer who was the first person to wear a protective helmet in a cricket match.
Though there have been mentions of hats and other self-designed helmets being used, it was Deniss Amiss’ helmet which brought the change within. Amiss played a key role in spreading the protective trend. It became highly popular in Test cricket.
Growth and Acceptance of Cricket Helmets
Amiss’ revolutionary idea of a helmet was accepted by many teams and their cricketers. Several experts were against the ideology as they felt wearing helmets can be disturbing while batting. Eventually, the entire cricket fraternity turned out in favor of wearing helmets.
The growth and acceptance of cricket helmets began after certain tragic incidents took place throughout the world. Players were hit on their heads by the incoming deliveries which resulted in death on certain occasions. Apart from this, fielders standing in close positions were injured after being hit by the ball.
Evolution Of Helmet Designs and Features
The design of helmets kept changing but the purpose remains the same. Critics kept questioning the comfort provided after wearing a helmet. Initial protective hats were light and the helmets were heavy. The helmets now weigh around 1 kilogram or even less. It underwent changes in its manufacturing materials, procedure, and features, etc. Here’s a look at some of the interesting features of a modern-day helmet:
- Adjustable straps: A certainly tight helmet can be adjusted to the perfect chin position.
- Adjustable grills: Grills can be removed and repaired easily if damaged.
- Sweat absorbing pads: The inner portion is made softer this pada which can be washed before use.
- Vents: The top portion of the helmet has vents that keep the player ventilated throughout.
Mandatory Helmet Usage in Professional Cricket
So far, the ICC states that wearing a helmet is completely an individual’s choice. Yet if a batsman wears a helmet, it should be binding to the rules and regulations set for it.
As per ICC’s Clothing and Equipment Regulations, a helmet must be compliant to the new British Standard. The features of the specifications are:
- It now includes a facial contact projectile test that assesses for penetration of the ball through the faceguard, and contact of the faceguard onto the face, using realistic ball impact speeds and conditions.
- Head protectors have been tested separately against men’s and junior-sized cricket balls (a five-and-a-half ounce ball and a four-and-three-quarter ounce ball, respectively).
Notable Incidents and Helmet Advancements
Helmets have been life saviors for batsmen and fielders over the years. There have been several incidents where players lost their lives tragically due to a lack of protection. Some players were injured but were out of danger due to the presence of helmets. Though helmets have been used throughout, there’s been a rise in concussion incidents. Here’s a look at some moments where batsmen escaped closely:
- Eoin Morgan: In 2015, Morgan was ruled out of an ODI due to a concussion as he was hit by a Mitchell Starc bouncer. Morgan later stated that the helmet was crucial in saving his life.
- Steve Smith: In the 2019 edition of “The Ashes”, England’s Jofra Archer bowled a surprising bouncer to Steve Smith who hit the helmet. Smith received medical help immediately and was retired hurt for the rest of the innings.
Helmets advanced in all aspects. The manufacturing materials used are either Polypropylene or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, both resisting high impact. The grills are made of steel which takes damage but lesser than other materials. Recently, the ear protection was taken into consideration and a small guard was added.
Current State of Cricket Helmets
In this era, no one denies the importance of cricket helmets. Players prioritize their safety anytime on the field. In 2014, the death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes after a bouncer hit his head raised concerns over safety. This tragic loss led to the laws and manufacturing of helmets getting safer than ever. The aim of current helmet manufacturers is to provide proper safety and total comfort.
Helmets now have adjustable grills and straps to provide comfort. The inner portion consists of sweat-absorbing pads which can be removed and washed before every use. The outer portion is made of strong resistant materials like Polypropylene (PP) or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS).
Future Of Cricket Helmets
The aim of future helmet makers would be to keep increasing the protection and comfort for the players. Several designs have been implemented into the helmets recently. India’s Shubman Gill wore a helmet with sort of a double grill in a Test against Australia in 2023.
The grill protected the neck portion as well.
Helmets can never be taken out of this game. Cricket is an unpredictable game and it has been important for the batsman to protect themselves at all costs. Helmets are expected to undergo even more changes with advancements. The heartbreaking incidents from cricket history always mention the importance of not only a cricket helmet but also a well-upgraded one.