This change from all players on the park wearing cream-coloured clothes was probably also intended to assist cricket watchers who may not otherwise be able to deduce that members of the batting side carried bats, whereas the other 11 players on the park (the fielding side) did not.
And so a tradition was born. New Zealand’s one-day cricket teams have since worn a range of shades, from the fabulous beige, through aquamarines and black. Other playing nations have also varied their hues.
But in recent times teams have started wearing more-or-less identical shades of a colour. Australia and South Africa recently wore the same green strip and England and Sri Lanka similar shades of blue. While the cricket purist knows that the batting team players are the ones with the bats, other observers may be more troubled. Goodness knows what emotional heartache has ensued.
In other codes, such as rugby and soccer football, there is a convention about home and away strips. Scotland recently graciously allowed the All Blacks to wear their all black strip as a mark of respect, wearing red jerseys themselves rather than their traditional navy blue. Apparently this was to acknowledge the All Black’s standing as world rugby champions.
I was expecting this issue of colour to assume significance in the world of cricket this summer in the lead-up to the ICC’s one-day-cricket world championship tournament. But for the meanwhile all cricket conversations seem to be focused on the tragic death of Australian Phillip Hughes.
While there are emotional outpourings of grief around most deaths, accidental deaths of young talented people seem to strike a louder chord. Phil Hughes’s death hasn’t just impacted on Australian cricket, it’s stopped that nation in its tracks as well as the world of cricket at all levels. Amazing stuff, probably assisted by social media sharing of this event and the ensuing mourning.
It has been observed that if Phil Hughes had perished in a car accident, the level of grief may have been less. That may be true. Phil Hughes’s death was also due to a work-place accident, and there are many other folk who perish at their place of work each day, never returning to family and friends who love them. A significant percentage of these unfortunate folk are also young and talented, but are mourned with only a fraction of the fuss afforded media celebrities like Phil Hughes.
It is what is learned from workplace accidents that is important, particularly changes that can be made to make those places and tasks safer for others who practise them.
This is where the sport of cricket will have to do some soul-searching, particularly around the currently allowable practice of a very-fast-moving, hard, bouncing object being directed at a batter’s head. A maximum of two such deliveries per over, or 33.3% balls in each game, to be exact.
Hopefully a reasonable solution is found to protect participants in what I believe is the world’s greatest sport. No doubt designers of protective equipment as well as the game’s regulators are already weighing options.
My biggest fear is that occupational safety and health professionals will be let lose, resulting in batters having to wear fluoro vests and the traditional wooden stumps replaced by orange cones. While this may make it easier for observers to identify the members of the batting side, Kerry Packer would not be the only person spinning in his grave.