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Umpires consider using protective gear for domestic matches in England

Protective equipment to protect the head, the heart and the back of the neck will be tested by select umpires before being put into use in domestic matches in England from next season.

Rob Bailey Cricket Umpire
A ball struck umpire Rob Bailey while he was standing at square leg.

Umpires officiating in the first-class matches in England are considering the use of protective gear, ESPNCricinfo reports. Equipment are being designed to protect the head, the heart and the back of the neck and will be tested by select umpires before being put into use from next season. 

The game of cricket has moved on from the days where the batsmen used to face up to the faster bowlers without any sort of protection and with the ever growing popularity of the T20 format, umpires feel that they also need to start using state-of-the-art equipment similar to the ones being used nowadays by the batsmen and close-in fielders. 

“The rise of Twenty20 cricket Umpires are in a precarious position. Being struck on the shins and thighs is not going to end their careers but the sternum, the heart, the kidneys and the back of the head are vulnerable places,” George Fox, a specialist in the manufacture of protective sports equipment, said. “But we do not want a superman syndrome and overheat them or produce headgear that will make them look ridiculous." 

“Additional protection would need to fit within the umpire's conformity and not be distracting to the batsman. The head moves more quickly out of the line than the body and there is a real risk of the ball deflecting off the stumps, but because of the question of insurance, equipment would be an umpire's personal choice,” he added. 

“Any sensible solution would be well received by them and would not necessarily need an ECB stamp of approval. The focus is on non-foam technologies as maintaining unexaggerated body temperature is critical when standing in high temperatures." 

Rob Bailey, a former cricketer and umpire with sound experience at the county and international level echoed similar thoughts while expressing the need of protective gear for the umpires.

 "A lot of people are in danger. Bats are massive now and are only going to become more powerful and the ball is pinging off them. Fortunately no-one has been badly hit,” Bailey said, before speaking about his personal experience. “I have been struck once this season. Umpires are pretty mobile now, but the ball followed me at square leg in a televised match and luckily hit the battery pack strapped on my back. Some umpires are wearing boxes now and chest pads in the future are a consideration."

Graham Lloyd and Russel Evans are other two umpires to have publically voiced their opinion on the matter of safety which has gained prominence after Australian Phillip Hughes passed away last year after being struck by a bouncer. 

"I would not want to wear a helmet for a full day's play and my worry is that this will turn into a health and safety requirement," Evans said, while Lloyd believes that the heart is the "vital organ" to protect.

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