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The evolution of cricket: from enhanced helmets to connected bats

On 25 November 2014 during a Sheffield Shield match in Sydney, cricket player Phil Hughes was hit in the neck by a bouncer (a ball delivery pitched to bounce short of the batsman and rear up to chest or head height). This caused a vertebral artery dissection leading to haemorrhage.

The team’s doctor, Peter Brukner, noted that only 100 such cases had ever been reported, with “only one case reported as a result of a cricket ball”. Hughes was taken to hospital where he was in intensive care in a critical condition. He died two days later having never regained consciousness.

The helmet worn by Hughes that day was a standard Masuri helmet, known at the time as one of the best helmets to use. Following the event, Masuri redesigned the grille of the helmet to better protect the neck and the face.



Cricket-helmet4

This was done by:

• Adding protection at the back of the helmet
• Reducing the gap between the grille and the visor
• Re-enforcing the top of the grille with a second titanium bar
• Making the grille non-adjustable
• Re-enforcing the peak of the helmet to prevent movement upon impact

The grille was made non-adjustable because if players adjust its position, the ball can sometimes pass through a gap and hit batsmen directly in the face, causing facial – and more seriously – eye injuries.

The downside of the new design is that the visual gap is much smaller than before, which takes players some getting used to. In addition to this, the extra protection adds weight to the helmet; head position when striking the ball is key and this adds higher levels of difficulty in controlling head and body position when trying to strike the ball.

These helmets were tested by firing cricket balls at the perceived weak points to see if the ball would make it through and cause injury. The results were very conclusive: on the old helmet the grille would open and close when the ball strikes; however, the newly designed grille doesn’t move and fully protects the player.

 
Getting connected

In other aspects of cricket, technology is being used to enhance technique and performance.

One of these new bits of tech is a sensor that exists inside a cricket bat to detect the bat position, speed, follow-through angle, back-lift angle, impact angle and time to impact; allowing coaches and players to closely analyse defects in technique. One of the key areas is the impact angle of the bat – if the batsman has the full face of the bat hitting the ball, then they are more likely to make impact with the ball. After reviewing feedback from the bat sensors, coaches can look at the video replay to spot mistakes in players’ technique and make corrective actions to improve their game .

Cricket gear is evolving as technology evolves, to improve both safety and technique. The challenge now is to make these new technologies affordable for the players at the grass roots level.

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