Four months after the death of Phillip Hughes, a homespun idea conceived by the Ireland allrounder John Mooney and his father-in-law has become the first instance of additional protection for the back of the head and neck in an international match.
Mooney had intended to wear his invention, which is effectively an adjustable rear grille, in his side's opening World Cup match against West Indies, but an unrelated helmet problem delayed its unveiling until a narrow victory over UAE at the Gabba. Mooney only made two from six balls, but in his 14 minutes at the crease the innovation turned plenty of heads both in Brisbane and around the world.
The question of additional protection for the area Hughes was struck on had been on Mooney's mind for a while before, due to another incident involving his cousin in a club match earlier last year. But the horrible footage emanating from the Sheffield Shield match at the SCG in November made him decide he could wait no longer.
"I played in a club game last year where my cousin got hit in a similar area. So the thought had been in my mind beforehand, but when I saw Phil getting hit I was adamant I was going to do something," Mooney told ESPNcricinfo. "I bat quite low down in the Irish team and I bat at the death where I have to take on the short ball pretty much every time and get hit on the head quite a lot.
"So it is an area that worries me and as a cricketer and a father as well, it's a dangerous sport, and as soon as that happens [you think about it]. My father in law is an architect and he's quite good working with his hands. So we got talking and with a few coat hangers one evening we designed the guard. Then we got a local bloke who works with steel to make us up a couple of prototypes and basically that's where it came from.
"It was late November when Phil got hit and it took us about a month to get a working product made that fitted the helmet perfectly and was comfortable to wear while training. We had a tour to Dubai in January where I first started using it, and from the first day I put it on there was no impingement on any shot I played, and I haven't taken it off my helmet since."
Mooney is calling it the "gorget", a seldom-heard term for a critical part of medieval suits of armour that protected the neck and throat of its wearer. "It's exactly the same as the grille of the helmet, you don't notice it much," he said. "It might add a bit of weight but not much at all. You could pick up two helmets, one without and one with and it wouldn't make any difference to the feel really.
"It doesn't really impinge at all. We had to try to come up with something that protects the back and sides of the neck but something that meant you had a free range of movement. It is a design you can adjust, you can adjust how far up your neck or the helmet that you'd like it, so some people might have different shaped necks and shoulders.
"It can be put on pretty much any helmet that's on the market at the minute and it can be fully adjustable to your needs and it will work for people of most sizes. The most important thing is that it doesn't make the target much bigger, it's not something clunky where if the ball hits it it will fly for four leg byes or anything like that."
Attitudes to helmets had perhaps become a little too lackadaisical in recent times, and comfort or budget had often been more critical factors than the strictest adherence to safety. Mooney agreed that the typically conservative, even superstitious mindset of many cricketers had been shaken by the fate that befell Hughes, meaning many would be more open to the concept of additional protection.
"Cricketers are very conservative about what they wear and sometimes borderline superstitious as well, but when it comes to safety I think every cricketer will look to something like this or similar to improve the safety of the game," he said. "With the innovation of new shots being played, scoops and all this kind of stuff, you need this kind of protection, because injuries are happening as we speak and they'll continue to.
"Players are aware bowlers are bowling faster and they're going to have to protect themselves adequately. I hope the players can start to look at it and take it on board for the extra protection around the neck area. I'd love to talk though it with a couple of the Australian guys because it is something quite close to them from the unfortunate thing that happened to Phil. Our assistant coach Matthew Mott who has worked with the Australian cricket team, he loved it and thinks it would be a great idea as well."
For now Mooney is the only man able to wear the gorget as it has not yet been fully tested or certified for use. But the process by which such certification will arrive is in motion, and he is hopefully it will be ready in time for the 2015 English season - he is also looking for investors or equipment manufacturers to aid its development.
"It's going to take between three and six months, ideally I'd like to have it out by the start of the English season. It's something that can't be rushed, it just has to be done the right way," Mooney said. "I'm doing it all by myself, it could be rushed through quicker if I had a company on board who were quicker at getting through that process, but as of yet I'm still trying to find an investor to take it on and work with me on that.
"It's had to take a bit of back seat because I'm concentrating on my cricket and it's hard to juggle the two at once at a World Cup. My wife is working to set up a website and a Facebook page and stuff like that for it. But because it is a piece of protective equipment we can't get it into the shops until it is certified."
Several other versions of neck protection are emerging on the market, including by the major global helmet supplier Masuri.