The pursuit of safety

Is often counterproductive, as was seen in the accidental death of the young EnglishAustralian cricketer, Phil Hughes:

Most of my career I batted on uncovered pitches without a helmet. This taught me how important it was to have a good technique and courage against fast bowling. Why? Because you required judgment of what to leave, when to duck and when to play the ball. But you had to be even more careful about attempting to hook because at the back of your mind you knew that if you made a mistake you could get seriously hurt.

I once asked Len Hutton, a great iconic player, whether he hooked Ray Lindwall or Keith Miller. He said he once tried it at the Oval and he got halfway through the shot then cut it out because out of the corner of his eye he could see the hospital. That tells you everything.

Before the advent of helmets in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in the late 1970s, if a team had a genuine fast bowler, tail-enders did not hang around. You did not see tail-enders propping and copping. They played shots or got out because at the back of their mind they were terrified of being hurt.

Helmets have unfortunately now taken away a lot of that fear and have given every batsman a false sense of security. They feel safe and people will now attempt to either pull or hook almost every short ball that is bowled at them.

Even tail-enders come in and bat like millionaires, flailing away and having a go at short balls with poor technique and a lack of footwork. Helmets have made batsmen feel safe in the belief that they cannot be hurt and made batsmen more carefree and careless. As a consequence more players get hit on the helmet nowadays than ever got hit on the head, before we batted without this protection.

This is true in the broader historical culture as well as the world of sport. We attempt to protect our women and children, to ensconce them in a rubber-and-plastic safety bubble that will keep them from all harm, forgetting that in protecting them from the petty dangers, they tend to forget about the existence of the more serious ones.

It is when we feel invulnerable that we are most susceptible to being taught otherwise.