The traditional view of cricket is of a sport played at a relaxed pace, with long games and periodic breaks for lunch and tea. However, the reality is that the sport is an inherently dangerous one. The combination of the very hard leather ball and bowling speeds that can reach upwards of 90mph in the international game means that bones can be broken and more. Therefore if you play in any way competitively, choosing the right safety equipment is vital. Here’s our guide to the essentials of cricket protection.
Cricket boots are rarely classed under ‘protection’, but they have a crucial role to play in keeping you injury free. When bowling, particularly if you are a faster bowler, the impact during the delivery stride is huge, and therefore it is vital that your boots provide the cushioning and support that you require. When batting, your boots need provide impact protection, particularly for your toes in order for you to have confidence when facing a fast yorker. Therefore in both roles, specialist cricket boots rather than standard running shoes are highly recommended.
Whilst the aim more often than not is to avoid being hit on the pad (the exception being ‘kicking away’ the ball when LBW is not a concern), pads are absolutely essential in order to give yourself the confidence to get behind the line of the ball and at least have the option of playing in an orthodox manner. Your pads should not feel uncomfortable – you need to be able to run and at times sprint in them, so a good fit is absolutely essential. If your pads do not feel comfortable, it is likely that they are too large, so try a smaller size. Also, ensure that the straps are comfortable and an appropriate length too – you do not want your straps coming loose whilst you are batting.
Thigh pads are one of the more ‘optional’ forms of protection. The thigh is one of the more fleshy parts of the body – a ball hitting you on the thigh is therefore far less likely to cause a broken bone than one hitting you on the shin. It will still hurt though and can cause serious bruising if the ball if delivered at a fast pace. Thigh pads, which are worn inside the trousers, can help to dampen the impact and limit the pain. People looking to develop their technique, particularly during net sessions, should consider wearing thigh pads as being hit on the thigh will be a more common occurrence until batting technique has been refined. However, the padding adds some extra weight, which is the main reason why some players choose not to wear thigh pads.
We don’t need to go into why a box is necessary do we?
The chest is an understandable area to want to protect, given the vital organs in that part of the body. Whilst with a good technique you can limit the likelihood of being hit in this area, there is always the potential for the ball to behave unexpectedly and cause you difficulties, so is worth considering particularly for developing players.
Arm guards are less favoured amongst professional cricketers, as although it provides extra protection, some batsmen feel that the padding limits their fluency when playing shots. Generally the only players seen wearing arm guards will be those batting at the bottom of the order, who have both poorer techniques and are generally bowlers so need to ensure their arm is protected. Ultimately whether to wear an arm guard is a matter of personal comfort – if you don’t feel it is impairing you playing your shots, it’s worth wearing.
The first thing to remember is that batting gloves come in both left-handed and right-handed pairs, as where you’ll need protection depends on whether you bat left-handed or right-handed. From there, a good fit is essential. The gloves should feel fairly snug as the looser the fit, the less effective the protection will be.
At the lower ends of the cricketing world, there is nothing guaranteed to result in sledging more from the opposition than the sight of somebody walking out to bat wearing a helmet. But whilst at this level it is less likely you will face a bowler capable of bowling a good bouncer, you still have to consider the unintentional beamer, and a helmet also provides protection should you attempt various sweeps or scoop shots. Ultimately there is a very good reason why helmets are compulsory in professional cricket when facing fast bowlers, and the question you need to ask yourself is what is worse – being sledged by the opposition or being hit in the head?
There is a tendency to think of protective equipment as purely a way of guarding against injury. But whilst this is of course a vital part of the role of protective equipment, the value extends well beyond this. Protective equipment gives you the confidence to choose your shots according to the delivery rather than choosing shots that pose the least threat of resulting in personal injury. And it’s for precisely this reason why all forms of protective equipment available are worth considering, particularly whilst you are developing your technique.
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