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Comfort factor key to Bangladesh players' helmet indifference

Openers Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar walk out to bat IDI/Getty Images

The blow Suhrawadi Shuvo took on the neck during a Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League (DPL) game on Saturday has raised concerns about Bangladesh players' attitude towards safety. The BCB had, last year, circulated the ICC's latest memo on safety, but several of the country's professional players have failed to upgrade to helmets with stem guards due to various reasons, mostly related to comfort levels.

The stem guard is made of a material called impact-modified thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a rubbery plastic. It is a clip-on that attaches to the side of the grille. Shuvo wasn't wearing a helmet with a stem guard which, while not mandatory as per safety standards, would have softened the blow to his neck.

Batsman Marshall Ayub, who played for Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in the DPL this season, said Shuvo's injury would push many players to review their helmets. "I have ordered one [helmet with a stem guard] from Melbourne recently," Marshall told ESPNcricinfo. "I should have got one sooner. I think now everyone will be keen on getting these helmets given how Shuvo got injured. It is an eye-opener."

This type of helmet is not available commercially in Bangladesh, but the BCB provided it to those playing for representative sides like the national team and Bangladesh A.

Soumya Sarkar, one of those using the stem guard, said players often did not want to compromise on comfort. "Using the helmet with the stem guard depends on the person," Soumya told Dhaka Tribune. "I felt comfortable with it, so I started using the type. It is very rare to find a batsman who compromises the comfort of his helmet. Then again, it has only been some time that this guard has been in the market. I do think the cricketers are much more aware now when it comes to safety."

Soumya also said the conditions in Bangladesh, with the tracks' relative lack of bounce and pace, might have contributed to the casual attitude towards upgrading helmets. "The types of wickets we play on in our domestic cricket can be one good reason behind the cricketers not using the stem guard. Also, not all the teams have good pacers in their side. But because we had an accident today, I hope the cricketers will take note of it and start to ensure safety."

Stem guard aside, the professional players' helmets in Bangladesh meet safety standards. But that does little to protect the back of the head and the neck, and many of the recent cases where a batsman had got hit on the head have featured blows to the neck region that can be protected using the stem guard.

Some cricketers have said the unavailability of stem-guard helmets in the local market is a reason for not being interested in getting one. The counter to this would be that some of these same cricketers order top-quality cricket gear from abroad, but have not sought out these helmets.

During the Bangladesh Premier League in 2015, several of the six teams in the tournament had provided the guard to their players, only to see it not being used. Again, players pointed to the comfort factor being a reason for that.

Perhaps, after Shuvo's injury, most cricketers will attach as much importance to safety as comfort.