Umpire Bruce Oxenford reveals how a Barinder Sran shot resulted in his 'Ox Block'
A look at the full story behind cricket's latest innovation to protect umpires.
Having come up with a unique arm guard to protect himself from the club-like modern cricket bats, Bruce Oxenford has predicted his ‘Ox Block’ to become the future of safety equipment for umpires.
In an interview with Daily Mail, the Australian umpire opened up on the origin of his innovative shield which he had employed for the first time in a World T20 warm-up match at the iconic Eden Gardens.
Oxenford revealed, “I was lying in my hotel bed in Delhi earlier this year when I came up with this idea. My fellow umpire John Ward was on duty in India and had just been hit on the head and badly injured. He was in a bad way.“
During a Ranji Trophy fixture between Tamil and Punjab at Dindigul, seamer Barinder Sran smashed a fierce drive off DT Chandrasekar. The ball struck Ward on the back of his head and he collapsed almost instantly.
The players and officials gathered swiftly before an ambulance took him to the nearest hospital. Thankfully, there was no major damage on Ward who had been in India due to an umpire exchange program between BCCI and Cricket Australia.
Recollecting the aftermath of the dangerous incident, Oxenford asserted, “We'd been talking for a long time about how we're in the firing line and the ball is coming back harder and faster all the time.”
‘Joe Root likened me to Captain America’
While Ward chose to wear a helmet as a protective measure upon returning to umpiring duties, he felt that it would not affect his vision during crucial decisions and instead began to look for alternatives.
He enthused, “I did a bit of research and looked at polycarbonate which is basically like bulletproof glass. It's extremely strong and you couldn't break it with a sledgehammer. I had people throw cricket balls at me from close range and it stood up to the test. I don't actually have to move it very far.”
However, the ‘Ox Block’ has attracted some light-hearted comments from fellow umpires as well as intrigued players. The 56-year old claimed, “Paul Reiffel called me Batfink and Joe Root said I look like Captain America, so I've had that sort of stuff, but it's also been overwhelmingly positive.”
Oxenford declared that discussions have been underway with manufacturers about the device’s financial viability by insisting “A lot of guys have asked me if it will become commercially available and I've spoken with Gray-Nicolls about it already. I showed them the first prototype and they're working on something similar.”
He added, “I wouldn't be surprised if every umpire had one in a few years' time. Personally I just think it's the sensible thing to do. All in, it cost me $120 to make as a one-off so it would be cheaper if they were made in bulk. I hope it is here to stay.“
Interestingly, the MCC who are responsible for formulating the sport’s rules have come out with a clarification stating that batsmen would still be given out if fielders catch ricocheting balls off the protecting shield.