JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18
Concussion sub trial to improve player safety
ICC approves trial for first-class cricket and is widely expected to adopt measures that would avoid repeat of Sam Harper incident last season
3 October 2017, 08:29 PM AEST
Cricket Australia believes a two-year trial of concussion substitutes in first-class cricket will eventually lead to the rule being adopted in international cricket, with high-profile concussion victim Sam Harper backing the move.
On a recommendation of the Curtain Review into the death of Phillip Hughes, CA altered its playing conditions last summer to permit the use of substitutes for players diagnosed with a concussion at all levels, except for first-class and international cricket.
International Cricket Council regulations restricted CA from introducing the concept into the Sheffield Shield– the competition would have lost its first-class status – and the issue was drawn into sharp focus when Victoria's Shield side were reduced to 10 men after Harper was felled in a "freak accident".
Harper, a young wicketkeeper playing in just his sixth first-class match, was inadvertently struck by South Australia batsman Jake Lehmann at the Adelaide Oval while he 'kept up to spinner Jon Holland.
Victoria had to play out the match with 10 men and Bushrangers players publicly questioned why they had been denied a replacement. CA clarified the match would have lost its first-class status with points forfeited had a replacement been used.
While the ICC last year denied a push to permit concussion subs in international cricket, a two-year trial of allowing them has now been granted and CA's head of cricket operations Peter Roach believes it's only a matter of time before the rule is standard for all levels of cricket.
"We strongly believe that the rules we've got in place are good for the sport and the player," Roach told cricket.com.au.
"We would be heavily surprised if we weren't reporting favourable things from the trial and other countries weren't desperate to follow suit.
"The prominence of concussions is growing and awareness should continue to grow. We do play a sport that, while far from a regular occurrence, does have instances of concussions.
"We are making every effort to protect the player and we make no apology for it."
The last couple of seasons have seen several players struck down by concussion.
NSW batsman Daniel Hughes became the first to be substituted under the new concussion rules last October after he was struck on the helmet while batting against Victoria in the elimination final of the domestic one-day tournament.
The likes of Adam Voges, Peter Nevill, Matthew Renshaw and Sam Whiteman all suffered head knocks at various stages last summer, and former Test opener Chris Rogers was forced from the field after a blow on the helmet batting at Lord's in the 2015 Ashes.
But Harper suffered the greatest blow; he was hospitalised for three weeks and spent months recovering from the knock over the winter before returning to top-flight cricket with Victoria in the JLT One-Day Cup this week.
The 20-year-old admits he'd kept batting through a previous concussion as a junior during an Under 19 National Championships match, but says the new rules will make it an easier decision for players to pull out midway through a game.
"Go back two years ago in that Under 19 Championships, I kept batting concussed," Harper said.
"I just told the doctor, 'no'. You ask any cricket player when there's a run chase on and you're in the middle batting, it's pretty hard to leave your team high and dry.
"Bringing in the concussion sub will be great because the person who's concussed themselves can start focusing on their rehab knowing that the team's actually got someone to do a job in your place.
"In a team sport … the last thing you want to do is let the team down.
"The brain is something you don't want to mess around with. I'm not proud of the fact that I kept batting two years ago, if I had my time again, I'd walk straight off.
"You don't want people coming off for no reason but if there's a genuine concussion or a genuine brain injury, I think it's important to (remember) 'cricket is just a game'."