Australia’s cricket board said on Wednesday (11 May) that it is seeking permission from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to trial the use of substitute players in domestic matches that would allow them to bat and bowl in place of team mates requiring medical attention for possible concussion.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said at a news conference in Melbourne that they expected a response from the world governing body by the end of the month.
“One of my observations is that whilst we support this recommendation being explored, I think it needs to be fully discussed and socialised,” he said. “One of the fundamentals of the game of cricket is that it’s a game of 11 players and a substitute has not been allowed in the past.”
Substitutes have been permitted to replace injured or ill players in matches for over 100 years but are not allowed to bat, bowl or act as wicketkeepers, according to the laws of the game.
Sutherland’s comments followed the release of a review into the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, who was struck in the head by a ball when batting in a domestic match in November 2014.
“The fundamental issue here is the desire for medical staff to have the ultimate say in an incident of concussion, to be able to make a judgment, and to allow that to be facilitated as easily as possible,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland added that he saw concussion substitutes in Test matches as a “natural extension” following a possible adoption in domestic matches, and suggested other classes of injury should also be considered in how they are activated.
The report into Hughes’s death, led by barrister David Curtain, made a number of safety recommendations including the mandatory use of helmets by batsmen facing fast and medium paced bowling in first class matches and also for wicketkeepers and fieldsmen close to the wicket.
It made no recommendation on the use of “concussion substitutes” but described it as a “relevant issue” that might require consideration.
Sutherland said the review showed Hughes had received the appropriate treatment, and the now-mandated British standard helmet would have offered no protection given where Hughes was struck.
He said Cricket Australia was also encouraging players to adopt the use of stem guards, which are attached across the back of the helmet, but conceded more research was required to prove that they afforded extra protection.
Hughes was struck on the back of the head by a rising delivery when batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield game at the Sydney Cricket Ground in November 2014. He died two days later in a Sydney hospital at the age of 25.
Hughes’s death shocked the cricketing world and ignited a debate about safety standards, particularly for batsmen, who can face fast bowling that exceeds 93 miles per hour.