In the wake of Phillip Hughes' untimely death, some expert opinions have cropped up, stating bouncers should be banned from the game to make the sport safer, so that tragic incidents like the one that occurred with Hughes are reduced. While one can understand why such opinions are flowing, the death of a player on the cricket field is too big a tragedy, asking for a ban on bouncers seems like a knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate incident. With all due respect to the departed soul, it must be mentioned that Hughes was plain unlucky that a ball hit him at a place from where there was no way back for him. It was a freak incident in every sense.
In the past too, many players have been hit on the head or neck area, some of them weren't even wearing helmets. Take the case of Nari Contractor for instance. He was hit in the head by a brutal bouncer by Charlie Griffith, and had a close shave with death. But, he survived, and though he did not play Tests again, he managed to recover and return to the playing field sometime later. Lance Cairns was hit flush on the head, minus a helmet, by Wasim Akram, and he too played on. Other big names like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ewen Chatfield also took severe blows to the head, but came back. Sadly, Hughes couldn't.
Bouncers are actually a crucial part of the game, which not only makes the game competitive, but allows bowler something to work around with in a sport which is, otherwise, heavily loaded in favour of the batsmen. All fast bowlers will tell you that no one bowls a short ball with the intention of hurting the batsman, leave alone killing one. It is a strategy utilised to keep the batsman on the back foot so that they do not take too much leeway and step on to the front foot. It also gives the bowlers that competitive streak. And when they manage to soften batsmen, and eventually dismiss them, it is a joy to watch.
People might be questioning the dangers of the short ball post Hughes' death, but the authorities must concentrate on making the game safer by reviewing safety equipments. Perhaps, helmets with better protection for the head and near the neck area could be the order of the future. We never know how the death of Hughes will change the way cricket is played. What is certain is that it will definitely have some kind of impact. Hopefully, that wouldn't be in the way of banning bouncers. Of course, bowlers would do well to understand that tailenders are at greater risk of suffering from injuries from short deliveries, and they could revert to the traditional method of not bowling bouncers to them.
Speaking of dangers in sport, no game can ever be completely safe. Unfortunate incidents are bound to occur here and there. The death of the legendary Aryton Senna led to Formula One reviewing their safety measures and overhauling the sport in a way. But, the game remains dangerous in that the speed limit cannot be controlled. If that factor is taken out of the game, there will be no joy in watching F1 any longer. Similarly, in cricket, a person can die even if he is wearing the best of helmets. We can only hope that such incidents do not happen. Only the other day, a Jewish umpire died after being struck by a ball. It was pure fate. Sport is unpredictable, so is life. No one can be completely out of danger.
--By A Cricket Analyst