UMPIRE John Whittaker is recovering in hospital “significantly better”, the ECB have said in a news bulletin, after a throw-in fractured his skull during a club league match in Yorkshire.
Whittaker was officiating at Illingworth in the Halifax club’s match against Harden in Division Two of the Airedale and Wharfedale League on May 1. Standing at square leg with his eye on the batsmen, he was struck on the left side of his head by a throw from the boundary. The blow knocked him unconscious for about two minutes, according to reports.
The incident was reminiscent of the awful accident in Swansea in 2009 that killed the widely respected umpire Alcwyn Jenkins, 72. He was struck on the back of the head by a throw from closer range while ready to adjudicate a quick single during a league match between Swansea and Llangennech.
The coroner recorded the formal verdict of accidental death at the inquest held in April. The incident was especially distressing for the umpire’s family and for the fielder Stephen Davies, 29, who was coached by Jenkins as a boy.
Swansea and Gower coroner Philip Rogers said the Jenkins family had made it clear that they did not attach any blame to Davies. Jenkins’ son Paul had told him in a statement that he and the rest of his family also took consolation from the fact his father had been doing something he loved at the time of his death.
Whittaker recovered consciouness “completely disorientated”, according to a witness Keith Goulden, father of the Illingworth captain Chris. He said: “The ball was hit down to the square leg boundary, where it was fielded and the ball was thrown in. The ball then hit the umpire on the side of the head, lacerating his left ear. He went straight to the ground.” The victim was taken by ambulance to Calderdale Royal Hospital and transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.
In 1996 umpire Judith West suffered a fracture skull and concussion when she was hit by a drive at the bowler’s end during a county second-team one-dayer between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol. A couple of weeks later first class umpire Alan Whitehead was hit on the back of the head by the arm of bowler Scott Boswell during British Universities against Kent in a Benson & Hedges Cup game at Oxford. Whitehead managed to call “dead ball” before collapsing in pain.
Umpires in club cricket have been struck by lightning and have suffered attacks from players or spectators. Fortunately injuries from the ball have been very rare.