Cricket ball hit kills umpire

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 5.07.09

London, July 5: An umpire died yesterday after being hit on the head by a cricket ball thrown by a fielder who had

collected it from the outfield and was aiming for the stumps.

This will raise urgent questions about whether umpires, too, need protection in the way that batsmen and close in fielders now routinely wear headgear even in matches between schoolchildren.

The use of headgear was ushered in after Indian skipper Nariman Contractor suffered a near-fatal injury when hit on the head on March 17, 1962, during a tour match in Bridgetown by the Barbados fast bowler Charlie Griffith.

Many years later, Contractor said of the accident which ended his Test career: “As for helmets, why not? I would have used one if they had been available in my time.”

Yesterday’s incident happened about 4pm before what was described as

“an usually large crowd” during a league game — abandoned after the accident — in the South Wales Cricket Association.

Alcwyn Jenkins, 72, who was umpiring in the league match between Swansea and Llangennech at the St. Helen’s ground in Swansea, did not recover consciousness after being hit on the head. He was airlifted to hospital in a helicopter after an ambulance crew, which was at the ground within minutes, had failed to resuscitate him.

A spokesperson for Morriston Hospital in Swansea confirmed the injuries were consistent with being hit on the head with a cricket ball.

It has long been recognised that the 5.5oz (155.9gm) ball, made from cork and covered in leather with raised stitching, can do a great deal of damage if bowled or hurled at speeds approaching 100mph. Even at 30mph, it can cause serious injury.

Fellow umpire Eddie Blake, 59, said Jenkins, a widower, was “devoted” to the sport.

Blake commented: “He was one of the oldest umpires and he was a smashing guy — a real character. He was very

popular on the local cricket scene and welcome in all of the clubs. Everybody respected Alcwyn and it is a big, big loss, not just to cricket but also to his family and friends.”

An Indian umpire who has officiated in six matches in his first season with the association is psychiatrist Dr Muthu Gnanavel, originally from Tamil Nadu but who now lives in Swansea.

He did not see the accident but told The Telegraph that the question of protection for umpires “is a valid point. I have seen umpires being hit though I personally have not been. Some protection for umpires might be useful. But it is a question of balance depending on the number of accidents.”

Neil Hobbs, honorary chairman of the South Wales Cricket Association, also did not see the incident but said it was a tragic accident.

“The fielder collected the ball in the outfield and threw it in at the stumps and it hit Alcwyn on the head,” confirmed Hobbs.

He added: “I’m led to believe it was one of the most freak accidents you could ever imagine on the cricket field. He’s umpired for the best part of 25 years. He also does junior league matches. Everybody probably in south Wales knows Alcwyn through cricket. It’s a very, very sad day and I feel sorry for his children.”

The sentiment was echoed by the England and Wales Cricket Board Association of Cricket Officials (ECB ACO), which will now have to consider whether umpires should be given more protection, especially in Twenty20 matches.

While an agile umpire might be able to remove himself from harm’s way in the face of a fiercely struck straight drive, for example, an older man may be more vulnerable — players take up umpiring once they stop playing so deep is their love of everything associated with cricket.

Steve Davies, chairman of Swansea Cricket Club, said Jenkins toured the West Indies with his association.

Before yesterday’s game, Jenkins had turned to him and said: “I just love games at St Helen’s. It’s a wonderful place to play cricket.”