Australian umpire Gerard Abood has become the first umpire and second match official to wear a safety gear – helmet- during the Melbourne Renegades and the Perth Scorchers T20 match at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne.
Abood wears a batting a black batting helmet. Abood said he has been contemplating wearing a soft gear due to the evolution of the Twenty20 game, with bats getting bigger and players getting stronger, he felt it was a necessary step after fellow Australian umpire JohnWard sustained a nasty blow while officiating a Ranji Trophy match earlier this month.
“I’ve had close shaves in the past, a couple have been real tight and they weight on your mind,” Abood told cricket.com.au.
“I thought, ‘What needs to happen before we do put one on?’ I’d rather put one on just before I get hit than just after.
“TheT20 game has evolved to the stage where guys are practising specifically whacking balls as hard as they can and it’s just coming off faster and faster.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s just reached the point where it makes sense on every level, we’re only 24 yards from the bat and if it’s coming back at us pretty quickly there’s not a helluva lot of time to move.”
Ward was struck in the head on December 1 from a full-blooded shot by Punjab batsman Brainder Sran off Tamil Nadu bowler DT Chandrasekar and is currently recovering from a concussion caused by the blow.
“That brought it into sharp focus for me,” Abood said.
“One of our top guys has been scorned and hurt quite badly. The cricketing landscape has also changed in the past 12 months (since Phillip Hughes’ death) from ifs and buts to the fact that it can happen.
“It’s time for someone to wear one and have a look at it.”
In November last year, an Indian origin umpire and former captain of Israel’s national cricket team Hillel Awaskar died after being hit by a ball during a match in the Israeli city of Ashod.
The Australian cricket board is currently working with England and Wales Cricket Board and International Cricket Council to umpire spefici protective gear, but Abood said until that was ready he would continue to use helmets designed for batsmen.
“We looked at the possibility of a baseball-type mask or a dome helmet, but I think they press against the face too much,” he said. “A batsman’s helmet is not completely foreign to most blokes.
“It may not be ideal but it’s certainly a good way to get the discussion started and keep the momentum moving forward with the development of umpire-specific protection.”
Abood said he had discussed his decision with other umpires as well as players, who had been receptive of the move.
“I think it’s a start, it will get the discussion happening and what I hope is everyone who is currently contemplating it will find it a bit easier to do once someone in the BBL has done it on television.”
Abood is the first Australian to make the move after Ward’s knock, but not the first official. Indian umpire Pashim Pathak, who was satnding at the square leg when Ward was hit, also wore a helemet during a recent Ranji Trophy game.