Bruce Oxenford sets new record in umpire safety as he used a protective shield for the first time in an international fixture during England’s record-breaking one-day win against Sri Lanka at Edgbaston.
The 56-year-old Australian’s left forearm was costumed with the protective device, which to some extent looked like a slimmed down version of a police riot shield, as he officiated in the second ODI match between England and Sri Lanka.
Interestingly, Oxenford was earlier also seen wearing the guard during an Indian Premier League match between Gujarat Lions and Royal Challengers Bangalore this season and before that during a World T20 warm-up game between Australia and West Indies.
But on Friday the equipment was used in a full international match for the first time.
Traditionally, protection for umpires accounted for no more than a hat or a cap.
But over the past few years, there have been growing concerns about the safety of officials, especially in case of an umpire standing at the bowler’s end, with almost every batsmen capable of ferocious hitting these days.
Those concerns increased even more after an Israeli umpire died in a club match back in November 2014 when the ball ricocheting off the stumps hit him straight in the head. That incident actually came at a relatively sensitive time for cricket, only two days after the death of Phillip Hughes who had been struck while batting in a Sheffield Shield match.
It quickly prompted Cricket Australia’s National Selection Panel chairman Rod Marsh to explain his concern for umpire safety last September. Marsh suggested changing the front foot no-ball rule and improved umpire protection equipment must be considered now.
“It’s only a matter of time before an umpire in an international or first-class match is seriously hurt, if not killed,” Marsh said.
“If I happened to be umpiring right now I’d be wearing a baseball catcher’s helmet, a chest pad and shin guards.”
A head injury to another Australian umpire John Ward while umpiring in India even forced Australian officials to take the initiative as they introduced protective equipment for Match officials.
Ward was hit in the head in the 48th over of a Ranji Trophy match from a full-force drive by a Punjab’s Barinder Sran. The umpire, who was in India as part of an umpire exchange program between Australia, India and South Africa, was quickly hospitalized and thankfully cleared of any major injury.
After the injury to Ward Australian official, Gerard Abood decided to take the safety to a new level as he becomes the first umpire to wear helmet during a match when he was seen wearing a protective headwear in the Big Bash League. Ward after returning to officiate in the Big Bash, also opted to wear a helmet.
He then became the first umpire to wear a helmet in an international fixture during the fourth ODI between Australia and India in Canberra.
An ECB spokesman claimed today if a batsman’s shot deflected off Oxenford’s shield and was caught by a fielder, the batsman would be given out.
By contrast, the Laws of Cricket make it clear that if a ball hits the helmet of a fielder before being caught, the batsman is not out and the ball is called dead.