Rule modifications for the upcoming domestic cricket season stipulate that batting superstars such as Steve Smith, David Warner, and Usman Khawaja will be required to adopt neck guards on their helmets while out on the field. The amendments also state that batters who strike the ceiling at Marvel Stadium during BBL matches will no longer be rewarded with an automatic six.
These two regulations are among a total of 12 changes that have been introduced for the approaching summer cricket season. Smith, Warner and Khawaja had initially resisted utilizing the additional protective gear that was advised after the unfortunate demise of Phillip Hughes.
The latest protective mandate was put into place subsequent to the concussion suffered by Cameron Green, victim to a Kagiso Rabada bouncer during a game in South Africa. The new regulation calls for all players in domestic cricket to wear neck protectors when contending with fast or medium-pace bowlers.
Cricket Australia has taken it a step further by mandating that all Australian batters use these in global cricket matches both within Australia and abroad. However, this regulation will not be imposed by internationally affiliated umpires, though failure to adhere to it could possibly invite penalties in accordance with CA’s code of conduct.
The protective gear requirement does not extend to batters pitted against slow or spin bowlers, nor to wicketkeepers and close-in fielders. Steve Smith, after temporarily adopting the neck guards when he suffered a concussion via a short ball from Jofra Archer during the 2019 Ashes series, stopped using them, noting they made him uncomfortable and claustrophobic.
Nevertheless, CA’s head of cricket operations and scheduling, Peter Roach, insisted that the time had come to make the neck guards a part of mandatory safety gear, following years of comprehensive research. Roach emphasised the importance of safeguarding players’ heads and necks in cricket, remarking positively on recent advances in neck protector technology and design, and willingly accepted the move after weighing a plethora of professional advice and viewpoint of various stakeholders.
Making note of a series of other transformations set to come for the forthcoming summer, Roach announced the discontinuation of the Covid substitute, the institution of time constraints on injury assessments and treatment during matches, and the revocation of the use of spin bowlers instead of fast bowlers in unfavorable light during Sheffield Shield matches.
However, arguably the most significant BBL alteration may be the removal of the automatic six reward for striking the Marvel Stadium ceiling during the Big Bash, a feat accomplished twice the past season. The revised rule vests umpires with the authority to ascertain whether the ball was set to clear the boundary. The batters may expect a score of six if the umpire deems the ball would have surpassed the boundary, or a dead ball if not.
According to Roach, these strategic changes aim to prevent unnecessary delays. He stressed the fruitful outcomes from last season’s modified playing conditions in reducing game delays and hinted at an ongoing search for further enhancement in the realm. Boasting of the Big Bash as the sole cricket competition worldwide able to cut down innings times in recent times, Roach credited the minor shifts in playing conditions coupled with the cooperation and commitment of players and coaches for driving this success.