Cricket umpires risking death, warns Marsh

Australian chairman of selectors Rod Marsh fears it’s a matter of time before an umpire is killed or seriously injured, unless the no-ball rule is changed.

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The former Test wicketkeeper says reverting to the back-foot no-ball rule, which was abandoned in the early 1960s, could save lives.

“It’s only a matter of time before an umpire in an international or first-class match is seriously hurt, if not killed,” warned Marsh while delivering the annual MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s.

“This appears most likely to occur in T20 cricket, but looking at the World Cup earlier this year, it could happen at any time.”

Marsh said if he was umpiring he would wear a baseball catcher’s helmet, chest pad and shin guards.

“Maybe we have to make this safety gear for umpires compulsory for all international and first class games,” Marsh said.

Marsh said reverting to the back-foot law would give umpires a chance to stand at least two metres further back.

“I can’t see why we ever went to the front-foot law and just quietly I can reveal there are a few umpires out there beginning to wish it would revert back to the back-foot law,” he said.

“You put yourself in their position when a batsman with a massive weapon runs at the bowler and smashes a straight drive at about chest height.”

Marsh’s comments come after former Israel cricket captain Hillel Oscar died after being struck by a ball hit by a batsman while umpiring a national league game in Israel last year.

Marsh added that cricket should follow the lead of golf and restrict the size of bats at the elite level.

“I’d put a restriction on the width of the edges because I’ll never condone a player being beaten, yet the ball still travelling 70 or 80 metres for a four or a six off the fat edge.”