The grim tragedy of Phil Hughes’s death made people stand up and notice the often ignored safety measures in cricket and paved the way for tinkering in the rules of the game.
The gut wrenching image of Steve Smith laying on the floor after being hit on the back of the head by a cricket ball brought back memories of Hughes’s death all over again. We were on the edge of our seats praying for Smith’s health and safety.
One of the rules which was brought about is the Concussion Substitute rule. It was put into place just before the start of the World Test Championship.
It’s not that simple though and comes with several conditions. First and foremost, the player needs to be concussed. Then the incident which resulted in concussion must have happened on the field of play during play.
The player needs to be replaced with a like for like player, which will be up to the discretion of the match referee. Also, a request for a replacement needs to come within 36 hours of the incident happening.
This new rule change is one of the many up and coming excellent measures which is taken to not let unfortunate events such as concussion of a player affect the result of the match towards one specific team.
Concussions are much more than what meets the eye. It is a mild form of traumatic brain injury which has both short term and long term effects.
The frequency and rate of head impact in cricket is perhaps higher than previously appreciated as cricket has traditionally been considered a low-risk sport for concussion, although lower than some of the other contact sports.
Previously, the definition of concussion in cricket was very subjective and problematic as injury substitutions were not allowed. This influenced the reporting of symptoms by players during the match.
Marnus Labuschagne: First Concussion Substitute
History was made as Marnus Labuschagne became the first Concussion Substitute in international cricket when he replaced the former Aussie skipper, Steve Smith in the third test match of the ongoing Ashes.
Smith was hit on the back of the head by a vicious bouncer by pace sensation Jofra Archer. However, he came back to bat later on in the Australian innings. He was diagnosed with concussion the next day and Australia used the newly inducted rule to bring in a like-for-like replacement in Labuschagne.
The question now is, is the rule good or bad? Does this benefit a certain team and tilt the balance of the game? Should the Concussion tests be more elaborate? Should the player be allowed to resume the play or not? Would the doctors be manipulated?
Player health and safety is paramount. But chances of misuse of Concussion Rule can’t be ignored. It can be manipulated to be used in one’s advantage. That is where the responsibility bestowed on Match Referees tend to increase.
Match Referee would have the sole discretion regarding the implementation. He/She would decide whether the replacement is a like-for-like replacement or not so as not to give undue advantage to one team.
There must be appointments of independent medical observers for every match. Team doctors are subject to tactical manipulation so as to gain an unfair advantage.
Cricket has lagged behind other international sports in bringing about substitution rules so as the players would feel more comfortable in admitting to their injury as there is no fear of leaving their team one short.
Although, the rule, in its nascent form is vulnerable to be misused but hopefully, we would be better than that. This is a long due and excellent step taken to ensure player’s well being and safety and it should not be curtailed in any form.