Australia Test batsman Usman Khawaja has voiced his disapproval at the recent International Cricket Council rule change that will allow players to be caught, stumped or run-out off the helmet worn by a close-in fielder.
The amendment, one of several announced by the ICC yesterday, mirrors a modification made to the Sheffield Shield playing conditions last season in the wake of the Curtain Review.
The Review, conducted following the death of Phillip Hughes, recommended that the highest standard of helmets become mandatory for batsmen facing fast and medium-pace bowling, wicketkeepers standing up to the stumps and for fielders positioned close to the batter (except slips fielders).
But while Khawaja believes the rule is “fair enough” when a ball rebounds off a wicketkeeper’s helmet given they have no choice in wearing a helmet while standing up to the stumps, he points out the positioning of close-in fielders is not mandatory.
Queensland’s Mark Steketee became the first Australian domestic player dismissed under the modified condition during a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG in February.
Steketee was given out after playing a pull-shot that ricocheted off the helmet of NSW fielder Nick Larkin and was subsequently caught at leg gully.
If a similar incident now occurs in international cricket, like the one where Matthew Wade was given not out during last summer’s Boxing Day Test, it will be out.
Wade had struck a fierce pull-shot into Pakistan’s Azhar Ali at short leg before the ball ballooned up to teammate Babar Azam, but was correctly given not out.
The change comes after the MCC’s world cricket committee, featuring the likes of like Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Sourav Ganguly, determined that catches and stumpings should be permitted after the ball has struck a helmet worn by a fielder.
"It is felt that balls rebounding off a fielder's helmet could equally help or hinder the fielding side and so the suggestion that rebounds off the helmet make catches easier should be disregarded," the committee said in a statement last year
The ICC rule modifications will come into effect for upcoming South Africa-Bangladesh and Pakistan-Sri Lanka Test series, while the ongoing one-day international series between India and Australia will be the last time matches are played under the existing regulations.