Denis Amiss had an idea. In the World Series Cricket in the 1970s he donned a look different from his peers. Apart from the pads and gloves, he had another accessory on. It was a helmet, much like the ones used by people wearing motorized vehicles. Amiss’ customized helmet saw a grill-like framework attached to the helmet. This was the first ever blueprint on the modern cricket helmet. This helmet had a major disadvantage that it covered the ears to the extent that the batsman could not listen to his partner at the other end. This led to many modifications of the helmet in terms of materialistic development.
Cricket helmets before the one wore by Amiss were not much bulky. Initially batsman only wore a simple cap. In the 1930s, Patsy Hendren, another English batsman wore the first customised helmet which was made by his wife. It was a hat that had multiple layers of rubber padding. However, that design was lost in time. Skull cap helmets protecting the ears were popularized in the 1980s. During this time, pace bowlers did not bowl a lot of bouncers and the pace of the ball was not too fatal to face.
There had been a few incidents before and after the seventies that kept the bowlers on their toes when it came to face fast bowlers. George Summers Abdul Aziz, Ian Folley, Raman Lamba were a few players who died due to a blow on their heads by a cricket ball. This led to manufacturers constantly improvising the helmet such that it was not bulky and could withstand the pace of the bowlers. Gradually, with time the bowlers also began to bowl at speeds spiking up to 140 to 150 km/hr. This led to the modern design of the cricket helmet.
The current cricket helmet is wore by wicket-keepers as well when a spinner or slow bowler comes to play. In fact, helmet development further popularized all the “silly” fielding positions where the fielders stand too close to the pitch (silly point, silly mid-on, etc). The cricket helmets contain a foam like fluid which acts as a shock absorber. It lies between the outer shell of the helmet made of durable plastic and an inner layer that has a padding surface. The grill attached to the body of the helmet is made of steel or carbon fibre or titanium.
In 2014, Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes bowled a bouncer which struck a critical area of the skull behind the ears in the region of the interface between the neck and the head. This caused a severe haemorrhage resulting in his unfortunate demise. This created a massive uproar in the helmet designing. Thus, helmets are now extended behind the ears and covered with a reinforcement technology that along with the help of a few ventilation holes can resist the pace of the ball.
Helmets play an important role in both the batting and bowling scorecards. These are the scenarios which might come into play including the helmet:
Let’s say the ball strikes the helmet of a fielder wearing it. The ball then flies to another fielder without bouncing. The fielder catches it. Is the batsman out? The answer is no. According to the laws, a batsman is out if the ball has touched the helmet of a fielder wearing it.
What if the ball lodges in between the helmet of a fielder? In such a situation, the ball is considered a dead ball, which means the bowler would have to re-bowl that bowl.
What if te helmet touches the helmet of the fielding side not in use, place on the ground? This helmet is usually placed behind the wicket-keeper. If the ball batsman quickly change ends before the ball touches the helmet which it eventually does, the team will get 6 runs in total. 5 runs as penalty for the ball touching the helmet and one run for batsman exchanging the ends. Irrespective of whether the batsman change ends or not, 5 penalty runs are mandatory if the ball hits the helmet.
What if the ball his the batman’s helmet and goes on to the boundary? Be it a four or a six, runs scored off the batsman’s body parts apart from the bat and gloves would be added as leg byes. Hence, the umpire would give it as 4 leg byes or 6 leg byes depending on how the ball crossed the boundary after hitting the helmet.
What if the helmet of the batsman goes on to the hit the stumps he is guarding? As unusual it seems, but this has occurred many times in cricket. As a reflex action to a bowler’s delivery batsman have often seen the helmet get off their head and hit the stumps. The batsman is declared out by means of hit wicket in this case. This is why chinstraps are there to fasten the helmets tightly around the batsman’s head.
Helmets are now a necessity in world cricket. It is important for the batsman or the fielders standing near the pitch to wear the helmet in order to protect themselves from the hard circular sphere of cork and leather.