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Mark Boucher suggests unique solution to protect wicketkeepers from flying bails

Mark Boucher insists that helmets are designed for balls and not bails.

Mark Boucher
Mark Boucher is hit by a bail

Mark Boucher, the former South African wicket-keeper, has addressed one of the long-standing concerns in the world of cricket and suggested that to ensure the safety of the players, the International Cricket Council should take steps to somehow attach the bails to the stumps to prevent them from flying in the air after being hit by a ball and dislodged.

Boucher’s career was cut short when he suffered a freak eye injury after being hit by ricocheting bails which led to a lacerated sclera as well as irreparable vision loss and photophobia. The incident took place on the opening day of South Africa’s tour match against Somerset at Taunton in 2012.

Boucher was not the first wicket-keeper to suffer from such an accident. In 1990, English wicket-keeper Paul Downton was also hit by a flying bail which led to his retirement. India’s Saba Karim also suffered a similar fate.

Recently MS Dhoni also suffered a similar fate while playing against Zimbabwe at Harare when he misjudged and played the ball from Donald Tiripano onto the stumps and the bail flew out and hit him in the eye.

The South African, who holds the record for the most Test dismissals by a wicket-keeper, spoke from South Africa about his suggestion to the ICC. "I had not worn the helmet but even if I had, it would not have avoided the accident. Helmets are designed for balls, not bails ," he explained.

"My recommendation would be to somehow attach the bails to the stumps, by a light string. This way, the bails will not fly and cause damage to any player," Boucher said.

Boucher explained further his stance on wearing helmets: "I would strongly recommend everyone to wear a helmet, but making it compulsory would not be fair on players who prefer not to wear one."

Earlier there had been speculations and suggestions about the need for protective eyewear to protect the eyes from flying bails and balls as well as enhance vision and preventing eyes from being exposed to UV light.

An investigation of such injuries reached the conclusion that being hit by bails is potentially of high risk to the players, especially wicket-keepers. The research indicated that although the chance of a bowler/batsman hitting the stumps was relatively low when Boucher was keeping for a spinner, the threat of the bails hitting him in such cases was still potentially high and should be considered as a dangerous risk.

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