It was a tragic August 14 for the cricketing fraternity from Pakistan when a young batsman Zubair Ahmed died on the field after being felled by a bouncer during a game at Mardan. Even as the cricketing world is mourning the unfortunate demise, one should not miss the alarm bells that are ringing following the incident.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has highlighted that this is a grim reminder of the risks of playing without a helmet. It was rather callous on its part to have spoken about this safety measure when the fact of the matter is that it is for the administrators to ensure that such precautions are never compromised at any level of the sport. Such a lackadaisical attitude is glaringly on show whenever a human tragedy occurs in any part of the world. True, many a calamity comes unannounced but accidents, at least a few of them, can be curbed if there is a systematic governance that can effectively put a check on mishaps like road accidents and incidents like those that are reported on the sports arena.
Zubair’s demise is unfortunate but then this is not the first time that a cricketer has died on the field. The world was in a state of disbelief and shock when Australian batsman Phil Hughes succumbed to an on-field injury in 2014. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and Cricket Australia (CA) stated that they would bring in checks that would ensure non-recurrence of such gory incidents. Alas, it has happened only three years after the death of Hughes.
What is more ironical is that Australian opener David Warner was struck in the neck by a bouncer from teammate Josh Hazlewood a few hours after Zubair’s death. If PCB tries to shift the blame and points a finger at the batsman being ‘helmetless,’ they would do well to remember that Hughes and Warne were both wearing helmets when they were felled by bouncers.
One wonders why such inhuman people are at the helm of affairs. It should be occupied by those who show concern for the lives of the sportspersons. It is too spine-chilling a thought that the administrators do precious little when it comes to mandating such preventive measures. For instance, helmetless two-wheeler riders are fined and car drivers are made to shell out if they are found guilty of being at the steering wheel without a seatbelt.
It is time the ICC gets down to serious business and addresses this issue more as a human problem and not dismiss it as the incompetence of one or two cricketers, who failed to read the ball. Lest one forgets, a 72-year-old English umpire Alcwyn Jenkins succumbed after he was hit on the head by a fielder’s throw during a league match at Swansea in 2009. That indicates that even umpires are vulnerable when on duty. Notwithstanding, the gravity of the problem, the fact is that with cricket being a batsman’s sport, the scapegoat will be the bowlers. And that is a bigger tragedy.