Cricket is an exhilarating, exciting sport but it can be quite dangerous. It’s been dubbed a “high velocity game” due to the fact that, in cricket, batsmen can face bowls of over 140 kilometers per hour. In the old days, cricket players would use makeshift helmets to protect their heads during games: they would pad their heads with towels, hats, and scarves. In the 1970s, helmets became more commonly used. Dennis Amiss, an English cricketer, was the first to consistently wear a helmet. It is no longer uncommon for professional league batsmen and wicket-keepers to wear protective headgear during games.
Accounts of several injuries suffered by professional cricketers in recent times have renewed interest in cricket helmets. In 1990, a ball smashed into England and Middlesex wicket-keeper Paul Downton’s left eye, leaving him with impaired vision in that eye and prematurely ending his career in cricket. More recently, Mark Boucher, considered one of the greatest wicket-keepers of all time, retired early due to a freak accident that damaged one of his eyes severely. While playing for South Africa on July 9, 2012, a bail struck his left eye, shattering the lens. He retired from International Cricket one day after the accident.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have made helmets compulsory for cricketers below the age of 19. Although many cricketers are against the use of cricket helmets in professional cricket, citing tradition, many players value safety over custom. South Africa’s new wicket-keeper, AB de Villiers, is a proponent of cricket helmets. He has mentioned in an interview that Boucher used to always wear a helmet as well. Why Boucher didn’t wear one that fateful day, de Ville couldn’t say.
Recent advances in technology have made helmets far safer than the towel helmets of the 1990s and the motorcycle helmet-like headgear of the 1970s. Cricket helmets are now made out of several types of materials, such as carbon fiber combined with Kevlar, fiberglass, high-density foam, and titanium. These modern helmets are available in a wide range of sizes, as it’s vitally important that a helmet fits correctly, and that its chin strap fits securely on the chin. Other features such as ventilation holes, lightweight titanium grills, and moisture-wicking liners help helmets feel less cumbersome and easier to wear during play.