Chris Tremlett: Why it is the right time to explore injury substitutions in cricket

Chris Tremlett
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Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire - Natwest T20 Blast
Luke Fletcher was struck on the head during Nottinghamshire's clash with Warwickshire (Source: Getty)

Seeing Nottinghamshire seamer Luke Fletcher struck on the head by a Sam Hain straight drive on Saturday was truly shocking; thank goodness the 28-year-old is okay and on the mend.

Given the size of bats these days and the power batsmen can generate as a consequence, it’s surprising there aren’t more injuries to bowlers because the ball just comes back so quickly and there is hardly any time to react.

It’s something I never really thought about in the early stages of my career but the game has moved on since then and it was a very different story during the latter years of my playing days.

Fletcher has admitted that he no longer bowls at his team-mates during Twenty20 net sessions due to fears over his safety and I have to say I shared similar concerns.

There were times I wouldn’t follow through properly on the my run up when I was bowling to Jason Roy, for instance, because I was wary of the ball coming back at me at a rate of knots.

I remember there were a lot of close calls and coaches who were doing throw downs and using the dog stick would wear helmets, while umpire Bruce Oxenford has pioneered an armguard shield for his protection. It can get pretty dangerous out there.

Whether coincidence or not, English cricket authorities have confirmed in recent days that they are exploring the possibility of introducing injury substitutions into our game.

When Fletcher was forced from the field, Nottinghamshire were allowed to bring on a substitute fielder but he was not permitted to bat or bowl. Effectively, the Outlaws were shorn of an important bowler for the remainder of that game.

The England and Wales Cricket Board’s cricket committee appear ready to discuss allowing teams to substitute a player if they suffer a match-ending injury. This follows Cricket Australia’s trial of concussion substitutes, which is set to be extended to all domestic competitions next season.

I don’t see why cricket shouldn’t have substitutions. When a player has to be taken out of the game because of injury, then their team ought to be able to replace them. I’m not sure why that isn’t the case already.

It’s very annoying for a side when a bowler goes down injured. It happened to Lancashire in their Roses showdown earlier this season when James Anderson suffered a groin injury six overs into his opening spell. He didn’t bowl again that match.

If that happens in a Test match it can ruin the whole five days so I certainly don’t have a problem with the powers that be looking at substitutions. They occur in other team sports so why not cricket?

There would have to be certain stipulations, of course. The substitute would have to be a like-for-like replacement. You couldn’t have a seamer replaced by a leg-spinner on a turning pitch.

If the concept is introduced into the domestic game in this country, it will be interesting to see how it is policed; the extent of the injury would have to be determined to ensure that a player can genuinely not carry on.

The substitute(s) would need to be named at the start of the match, meaning they are the only individuals able to be used should injury strike. As with everything, details would need to be ironed out but it’s definitely right to explore it.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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