Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland has confirmed the key medical recommendations made by the New South Wales coroner following the death of Phillip Hughes will be implemented at venues throughout Australia.
In responding to the release of Coroner Michael Barnes’s findings after his inquiry into the death of Hughes almost two years ago, Sutherland also indicated that changes to incorporate greater neck protection on helmets will be mandated across first-class cricket once research into the optimum design is completed.
He also responded to the Coroner’s claim that while on-field sledging played no part in the fatal blow suffered by Hughes at the Sydney Cricket Ground it was an “unsavoury aspect of the incident”.
And that people not steeped in the on-field practices of cricket who had followed the Coroner’s Court proceedings might be “left to wonder why such a beautiful game would need such an ugly underside”.
Read more: Coroner rules Hughes death 'tragic accident'
Hughes was struck on the neck by a delivery while batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales at the SCG on November 25, 2014.
The 25-year-old Test batsman died in hospital two days later as a result of a traumatic basal subarachnoid haemorrhage caused by the blow.
Sutherland, who reiterated that the two years that had passed since Hughes’s death had been difficult for entire cricket community but unimaginably painful for Hughes’s parents Greg and Virginia and his siblings Jason and Megan, said he “did not disagree” with the Coroner’s views about on-field sledging.
“The spirit in which the game is played is a really important fundamental of the game of cricket,” Sutherland said today before play resumed in the first Commonwealth Bank Test between Australia and South Africa in Perth.
“It’s enshrined into the laws of the game in the preamble to the laws of the game and I think to that end we would always like to think that the game of cricket is played in the right spirit.
“Sledging can be in the spirit of the game and it cannot not be, it just depends on your definition of sledging and I think certainly on-field banter is something that’s always been part of the game.
“But when that banter turns to abuse or anything like that then it crosses the line into something different and that’s not in the spirit of the game and that’s why the Code of Behaviour for Cricket Australia and international cricket deals with those issues.
“I certainly endorse the comments the coroner has made about the spirit of cricket and we would like to think it continues to be a very important part of the way in which the game is played.”
Sutherland said if on-field sledging became a problem at any level of cricket he would interpret that as the umpires not doing their job, given the powers and penalties afforded match officials to deal with breaches of the players’ Code of Behaviour.
“Whether that’s audible obscenities, whether that’s verbal abuse or threatening behaviour - whatever it might be, it’s very clear as to what crosses the line and what doesn’t,” Sutherland said.
“And if people cross the line then the umpires who are on field should be dealing with that.
“So I don’t believe it’s, it has crossed the line, because the umpires are out there doing a job.
“They’re professionals, I know they talk about it a lot, they think about it a lot, they’re briefed on it a lot and we don’t see a lot of reports (of players) for that sort of behaviour.
“It’s a contest where there’s a lot at stake and the game means a lot to those people that are playing the game.
“I come back to the fundamentals the game should still be played in the right spirit and for the sake of clarity there’s codes of behaviour that are in place that deal with more inappropriate behaviour.
“When that line is crossed people should pay the price for crossing that line and I can only encourage the umpires and relevant officials to take action when it’s appropriate and perhaps that avoids things escalating to those flash points.“
Among the Coroner’s recommendations from the week-long inquest was that key staff members at the SCG, as well as officiating umpires, receive comprehensive briefings related to medical assistance to ensure the best possible aid can be provided in emergency situations.
Sutherland said Cricket Australia would work to ensure those best practices were implemented at venues throughout Australia, and that collaboration with sports equipment developers would continue to make sure the optimum form of neck and head protection is identified and mandated in all first-class cricket matches.
He also acknowledged the Coroner’s identification of “inconsistencies” in the current drafting of laws relating to dangerous and unfair bowling laws in the Sheffield Shield competition that should be reviewed by CA because they created uncertainty even among senior first-class umpires.
But Sutherland noted that some of the parameters surrounding the interpretation and legislation of bowling practices, particularly relating to short-pitched bowling, were based on global playing conditions which falls under the control of the International Cricket Council.
“The recommendation specifically go to perceived anomalies or a bit of ambiguity between the laws of the game and our playing regulations for Sheffield Shield cricket,” Sutherland said.
“We need to look very closely at that, and we will.
“But our Shield playing regulations are very broadly mirrored by those regulations for Test cricket so there may well be some ambiguities there.
“And if there are we will certainly refer those up to the ICC.”