BBL umpire first to wear safety helmet
Gerard Abood reacts to safety concerns and will wear a batting helmet tonight at Etihad
Laura Jolly at Etihad Stadium
30 December 2015, 04:41 PM AEST
Gerard Abood will tonight become the first Australian umpire to wear a helmet while officiating a KFC Big Bash League when the Melbourne Renegades meet the Perth Scorchers at Etihad Stadium.
Abood will wear a batting helmet – in black – donning the same Masuri Vision Series model worn by the majority of Australian players.
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Abood said he been contemplating wearing head protection for some time due to the evolution of the Twenty20 game, with bats getting bigger and players getting stronger, but he felt it was a necessary step after fellow Australian official John Ward sustained a blow to the head while officiating in India's Ranji Trophy earlier this month.
"I've had close shaves in the past, a couple have been real tight and they weight on your mind," Abood told cricket.com.au.
"I thought, 'What needs to happen before we do put one on?' I'd rather put one on just before I get hit than just after.
"TheT20 game has evolved to the stage where guys are practising specifically whacking balls as hard as they can and it's just coming off faster and faster.
"As far as I'm concerned it's just reached the point where it makes sense on every level, we're only 24 yards from the bat and if it's coming back at us pretty quickly there's not a helluva lot of time to move."
Abood, centre, during Monday night's Thunder v Strikers match // Getty
Ward was struck in the head on December 1 from a full-blooded shot by Punjab batsman Brainder Sran off Tammil Nadu bowler DT Chandrasekar, and is currently recovering from concussion caused by the blow.
"That brought it into sharp focus for me," Abood said.
"One of our top guys has been sconed and hurt quite badly. The cricket landscape has also changed in the past 12 months (since Phillip Hughes' death) from ifs and buts to the fact that it can happen.
"It's time for someone to wear one and have a look at it."
In November last year, umpire and former captain of Israel's national cricket team Hillel Awaskar died after being hit by a ball during a match in the Israeli city of Ashdod.
Cricket Australia is currently working with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council to design umpire-specific protective wear, but Abood said until that was ready he would continue to use helmets designed for batsmen.
"We looked at the possibility of a baseball-type mask or a dome helmet, but I think they press against the face too much," he said. "A batsman's helmet is not completely foreign to most blokes.
"It may not be ideal but it's certainly a good way to get the discussion started and keep the momentum moving forward with the development of umpire-specific protection."
Abood said he had discussed his decision with other umpires as well as players, who had been receptive of the move.
"I think it’s a start, it will get the discussion happening and what I hope is everyone who is currently contemplating it will find it a bit easier to do once someone in the BBL has done it on television."
Abood is the first Australian to make the move after Ward's knock, but not the first official. Indian umpire Pashchim Pathak, who was standing at square-leg when Ward was hit, also wore a helmet during a recent Ranji Trophy game.
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