Cricket helmet manufacturers are under pressure to increase safety standards following the death of Phillip Hughes.
Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, led the calls on Thursday for improved technology to prevent further tragedy, as the sport came to terms with the death of Hughes, who was hit in the head by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match.
Hughes was wearing an old-style helmet made by Masuri, but it is unlikely any helmet on the market would have saved him. Strides have been made in helmet technology in recent years, with a new British Safety Standard, but it only covers two of the three concerns flagged up by an International Cricket Council study of head injuries. The area missed by the safety standard is the spot below the helmet which becomes exposed when a batsman turns his head, which is exactly how Hughes was injured.
"You have to think about ways of improving the helmet all the time, balancing protection with being able to move and see the ball," said Hussain. "Putting bits on the neck is an area we've never thought about. We were always told to protect the temple, but were never really concerned about the neck. The instinct to get out of the way of a bouncer is to turn away. This will send shock waves through every cricketer."
The England and Wales Cricket Board has confirmed there are no plans to make it mandatory to wear helmets in adult club cricket, while the ICC and Cricket Australia declined to comment on helmet technology.
Manufacturers believe technology is being held back by worries over how cricketers look and macho mickey-taking. It is something Bryce McGain, the Australian former player, experienced when in 2009 he wore a new-style helmet in televised matches. "The commentators had a go, saying, 'He looks like Darth Vader', 'He looks like RoboCop'," he said. "It didn't bother me too much, but only a couple of other players wore it and if you don't have the players at the top, the ones on TV, wearing them, they won't sell."
The chief executive of Albion, the company which made McGain's helmet, says the sport is reluctant to accept change. "The ability of manufacturers to innovate is reliant on players embracing new technology and they are very, very traditional in cricket," said Brendan Denning. "We make incremental changes while trying not to upset the traditionalists. Other sports, like horse racing, more readily accept that injury is an issue."
But Andrew Strauss, who played with Hughes for Middlesex, believes cricket is safer than ever. "The protection in the game of cricket has never been better than it is today," he said. "I don't think any cricketer will go out there to bat these days worrying that his life might be on the line. I think in the old days pre-helmet that did take place."