Tasmania’s Jake Doran has earned himself a unique place in cricket history by becoming the first substitute player to formally bat in a first-class fixture as a result of concussion suffered earlier in the match by his teammate, Jordan Silk.
Doran, who was not in Tasmania’s 12 for the JLT Sheffield Shield match against Victoria that began at the MCG yesterday but had travelled to Melbourne as part of the 13-man squad, was called up to open the batting in the Tigers’ second innings after Silk was ruled out due to delayed concussion.
Silk was struck on the head when attempting to duck under a short delivery from Peter Siddle on the opening morning of the game, but continued his innings and even took to the field and claimed an excellent diving catch to dismiss Dan Christian when Victoria resumed their pursuit of Tasmania’s 172 this morning.
However, as he began to exhibit symptoms of delayed concussion he was examined by the independent doctor-on-duty at the MCG, and when it was deemed he would take no further part in the match Tasmania – under the new concussion substitute guidelines introduced by Cricket Australia this summer – were allowed to nominate their preferred replacement.
Given Silk’s skills as an opener did not directly match those of Tasmania’s 12th man, spin bowling allrounder Beau Webster, the Tigers requested that auxiliary opener Doran (who had remained in Melbourne despite being initially overlooked) fill the vacancy and Victoria agreed to the substitution.
Up until the two-year concussion substitute trial was proposed by CA and ratified by the International Cricket Council this year, substitute players were only allowed to participate as fielders and if they took part as batters or bowlers, the game in which they were playing would be stripped of its first-class status.
The capacity to replace players diagnosed with concussion was a recommendation contained within the Curtain Review that was conducted following the death of former Test opener Phillip Hughes in 2014, and CA last year changed the playing conditions at all levels of the game they administer (except first-class and international cricket) to permit that change.
A proposal to extend the use of concussion substitutes to the game’s highest levels was initially rejected by the ICC, which oversees the game’s playing conditions, but earlier this year cricket’s governing body agreed to CA introducing the rule on a two-year trial basis at first-class level in Australia.
The issue came into sharp focus last summer when Victoria keeper Sam Harper was badly concussed when accidentally struck by the bat of South Australia’s Jake Lehmann as he followed through on a stroke during a Sheffield Shield match in Adelaide.
Harper was unable to take any further part in the match and was sidelined for the remainder of the season, but SA opposed Victoria’s request to field a substitute who could bat and/or bowl because they understood such an agreement would mean a loss of the game’s first-class status and thus cost any points that counted towards both teams’ push to reach the Shield final.
While a concussion substitute was first implemented in senior cricket in Australia last summer when New South Wales batter Daniel Hughes was struck (coincidentally by Siddle) while batting in a one-day cup match against Victoria and replacement batter Nick Larkin was added to the Blues line-up, it had not been seen in the first-class arena until today.
Australia opener Matthew Renshaw was also struck while completing a career-high innings of 184 in the third Test against Pakistan at the SCG last summer and, with concussion substitutes not allowed at Test level, he was deemed unable to take his place at the top of the order when his team batted a second time and number three Usman Khawaja instead opened alongside David Warner.
Under the conditions attached to the two-year trial, which will be evaluated by the ICC upon its completion, once Silk was examined and assessed to be affected by concussion he was withdrawn from the match and ruled unable to take any further part.
Had Victoria objected to the player that Tasmania had nominated as their preferred replacement – in this case, another specialist opener in Doran – the matter would have been referred to the match referee for adjudication.
Given that Australia is the first jurisdiction in world cricket to pursue and introduce a concussion substitute in games of first-class standing, Doran becomes the pioneer of a change in the playing conditions that CA wants to see mandated across all forms of the game as soon as possible.