The recent death of a club cricketer, Darryn Randall, in South Africa proved to be one of the very rare occasions in these days of head protection where serious injury was sustained while batting.
Randall, 32, a youth cricket coach and former first class cricketer with Border, was playing a premier league game for Old Selbornians CC in East London when he missed an attempted pull and was knocked unconscious, the ball striking him on the side of the head. Despite the protection of a batting helmet, he could not be revived and died in hospital.
The widespread use of the batting helmet at club level has not eliminate injury, especially concussion and facial damage, but life-threatening head injuries have become almost unknown. The chest remains the most vulnerable area.
The Manchester cricket community would well remember the death of Tim Melville, 18, while batting for Wallasey CC in an under-21 game at Hyde in 2005. He was struck by a delivery on the chest near his heart and he collapsed at the crease. Despite first aid administered on the pitch, he was pronounced dead at Tameside Hospital. A similar incident more recently killed Mudasir Ahmad Matoo, 20, while batting in a game in Kashmir.
Matthew Prior, 13, was hit on the chest by a full toss while batting in a prep school match in Lydenburg, South Africa. A broken rib appeared to have pierced a lung and he died in hospital. Fortunately such serious incidents remain extremely rare for batsmen and makes sense of the law makers’ drive to deter his full tosses and beamers.
Fielders and bowlers have much less protection from injury beyond instinctive reaction. For example, many a short-leg fielder has been struck on the head or body, but fatalities remain almost unknown in club cricket, certainly since the death of Raman Lamba in 1998. The former India Test player, at 38, took a full-blooded shot on the head at short-leg during a local game in Bangladesh and later died. He decided to field unprotected for one ball to avoid delay after calling for a helmet.
Bowlers are vulnerable to broken fingers or worse. David Wilcockson, 71, was hit on the head by a fierce drive while bowling for the Surrey club Old Dorkinians in 2012. He went into a coma and died in hospital. At Porthleven CC in Cornwall an outfielder Derek Newman, 45, died after being struck by the ball while attempting a catch near the boundary in 2007.
All head injuries should be treated seriously, even mild concussion. There were reports from Queensland earlier this month of a man killed in a car crash that his family believed might have been connected with a cricket injury. Allen Johnson, 32, a local sportsman at Springsure, apparently suffered concussion after being struck above an eye, and later that night he veered off the road while driving and hit a tree.