Australia coach Justin Langer says he won’t be surprised if wearing a neck guard on the helmet becomes mandatory in the future after star batsman Steve Smith was felled by a bouncer in the second Ashes Test against England at Lord’s.
Smith was batting on 80 on the fourth day on Saturday when he was struck by a bouncer from fast bowler Jofra Archer, timed at 92.4 mph (148.7 kph) on the (unprotected) back of his neck.
He fell prostrate on the ground for a while, took time to regather himself and was initially withdrawn by the team doctor Richard Saw for precautionary concussion testing.
There was widespread surprise when Smith re-emerged less than a hour later at the fall of Peter Siddle’s wicket but was finally out for 92 when he shouldered arms to a straight ball from Chris Woakes.
That dismissal denied Smith his third hundred in as many Ashes innings after he marked his comeback Test following a 12-month ball-tampering ban, with scores of 144 and 142 in Australia’s 251-run win at Edgbaston.
Significantly, Smith was wearing a helmet without the additional stem guard neck protection introduced following the death of Phillip Hughes after his former Australia team-mate was hit by a bouncer in a 2014 domestic Sheffield Shield match in Sydney.
“You never like seeing your players get hit like that, no doubt about that. It was obviously some pretty rough memories of a blow like that, so there’s no fun in it,” Langer said later.
Asked whether he thought neck guards should be made mandatory for the players, Langer said, “It might be my error but I didn’t realise they weren’t mandatory until today. At the moment the players have a choice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they become mandatory in the future.”
The former Australia opener feels that Smith will have to wear a neck guard on his helmet in future whether he likes it or not.
“I think Steve wrote in his book he just doesn’t like or feel comfortable (with a stem guard). He’s got all these idiosyncrasies everyone’s talking about -- he doesn’t like having shoelaces he can see, doesn’t like his shoes being dirty, so it’s the same, it just doesn’t feel right,” the coach said.
“I’m sure after today it will get talked about again, I know they came in after the tragedy of Hughesy. So I’m sure it will get talked about, and he might rethink it now after seeing what happened today, but you would have to ask him that.”
Langer also revealed that Smith insisted on going back to bat after he retired following the blow on the back of his back, protesting that he needed to be given the chance to make a century at the home of cricket.
The coach said Australia had not taken an undue risk in allowing Smith to resume his innings.
“He had the concussion testing and passed all that and that’s why he came back out to bat. These are like my sons alright, so you’re never going to put them in harm’s way, even though you’re always in harm’s way with Test cricket.
“What else do you do? The medicos cleared him, he wanted to get out there. He was saying ‘mate, I’ve got to get out there, I can’t get on the honour board unless I’m out batting’
“We asked him over and over. I asked him privately, behind closed doors two or three times, I asked him in front of the group. He just said ‘all good, all good coach, I’m ready to go’ He was determined. All he was worried about was that he wasn’t going to be able to play his forward defence because it was hurting with his top hand grip.”
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