Canberra, Jan 20: In a first in international cricket, umpire John Ward wore a helmet as he stood in the 4th One Day International between Australia and India at the Manuka Oval here on Wednesday (January 20).
Australia's 53-year-old Ward, who was hit on the head while officiating a Ranji Trophy match between Tamil Nadu and Punjab in Dindigul in December 2015, did not want to take chances. He was standing in the 4th ODI wearing a helmet.
While there has been a lot of focus on safety of players during any match, umpires are also under the spotlight. Recently in Bengaluru, during the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament, Indian umpire Paschim Pathak wore helmet for Kerala-Railways match at Alur ground.
Ward had suffered an injury to the back of his head from Barinder Sran's straight drive during Ranji Trophy game. Sran, who played in the 1st three ODIs, was dropped for today's contest. Ward was standing in his 7th ODI on Wednesday. He has also officiated in 6 Twenty20 Internationals.
Australia captain Steve Smith won the toss and opted to bat first. As if to justify Ward's decision to use protective gear, his colleague Richard Kettleborough of England was hit on his right leg by a straight drive from opener Aaron Finch. Later, after 17 overs, Kettleborough left the field due to the injury. TV umpire Paul Wilson of Australia replaced him on the field.
After his injury in India, Ward had told the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) website that umpires needed light weight helmets.
"I will be having discussions with the helmet manufacturers in Australia. We need to develop a product which is light weight and comfortable in hot conditions. I will be talking to manufacturers to see if we can devise a helmet that cricket umpires all over the world can use," Ward had said.
Last year, former Australian umpire Simon Taufel had said on-field match officials might use helmets in the future.
"I wouldn't' be surprised in the future, if it continues the way it's going, where umpires start looking at that (wearing helmets)," Taufel was quoted as saying in New Zealad media in March 2015.
Taufel, who won the ICC umpire of the year award from 2004 to 2008 added, "but that's an individual call they have to make". He felt 'nets' were the 'most dangerous places' for umpires.
"The nets are the most dangerous places for us now ... (Virender) Sehwag, Gayle, Warner - they're probably some of the biggest hitters of the ball and they just go into the nets to actually practise those shots."
More umpires might follow Ward and walk out wearing helmets.