Friday, December 5, 2014

Blame the Bouncer?

Every now and then, an event occurs within the confines of sport that transcends far beyond the normal boundaries. 

Sport exists to entertain, it has no other purpose.  And yet here we are faced with the tragedy of losing Phillip Hughes, a young man primed to become one of the senior Australian batsmen in the years to come.

Sadly we will never know what heights he might have scaled, it was surreal and hard-hitting to see the 'died' section on his Cricinfo page.

Understandably there has been a lot of talk and debate surrounding this tragedy. 

It is natural to seek an avenue of blame such as:

  • Should the bouncer be illegal?
  • Is the batsman protected enough?
  • Is the bowler at fault, or perhaps fast bowling in general?

The truth is that none of this is even relevant because we are not dealing with a fault of any kind. Nothing was defective, nobody was negligent, all the appropriate measures were in place.  This is nothing more than exceptionally bad luck and the only option is to accept this harsh truth and move on.

It is certainly no fault whatsoever on poor Sean Abbott and it is very refreshing to see the amount of support he is getting.

Does The Bouncer Belong in Cricket?

Cricket has evolved into a batting oriented game, a bowler has little weapons left to bowl a side out.  These days ODI scores of 400 with double hundreds are achievable, Chris Gayle almost got a double in an IPL match.  Games sometimes hinge so heavily on winning the toss and batting that you can almost write off victory over a coin.  Batsmen have bigger bats, smaller grounds and friendly dead tracks. What does a bowler have?

Rarely these days do you get seaming and swinging conditions and only the very best are capable of using express pace.  But even speed is not enough as inaccurate speed easily becomes fodder, how often does an attempted yorker turn into a full toss or half volley? The margin for error is tiny.

This introduces the bouncer, a rare tool bowlers can use to keep a batsman honest providing it is used correctly.  This doesn't mean a bowler attempts to deliberately injure a batsman, nor does it mean six unplayable deliveries at the head. It should mean a dot ball which can be easily averted but difficult to play.

Nobody condones situations like Bodyline where there is clear malice in the bowling, and that's where the umpires step in.  Within the laws and within fair play the bouncer is fair enough, take away the bouncer and we reduce cricket further to mindless swing and smash.

Is the Equipment Good Enough?

We cannot blame the batting helmet either, and enhancing it's design to protect the neck would simply be a knee jerk reaction.  We currently have helmets, pads, gloves, arm pads, thigh guards and boxes. It is acceptable to state that all the key areas of the body are protected, from here an injury becomes a question of probability and risk. You will never get 100% success here.

The awful accident with Hughes was one of those low percentage occurrences that could happen to anyone without the slightest warning.  Everything we do carries some degree of risk, be it playing cricket or even as simple as crossing the road. Who is to say one of us won't get hit by a bus tomorrow?

What Happens Now?

It was a tragic and truly unpreventable incident that happened and it has left a feeling of dread over the game.  But the game must carry on as before.  It is great that cricket worldwide halted briefly and everyone joined in union to honor Hughes.  After this grace period and moments to reflect, everything should proceed as normal and I am looking forward to an emotional and inspirational series with Australia against India.

What happened to Phillip Hughes isn't fair, but then again what is?

Contributed by : Varun Prasad
Varun’s blog : The Cricket Musings

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