Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has argued that safety considerations must be balanced with preserving the fabric of cricket, ahead of a wider-reaching NSW coronial inquest that will follow Thursday's release of a CA-commissioned report into the death of Phillip Hughes.
The report prepared by David Curtain QC concluded that neither greater head protection for Hughes nor swifter transport from the SCG to the nearest hospital would have prevented his death, while also recommending a raft of changes to head and heart related safety precautions around the game.
Curtain's terms of reference were pointedly limited by CA, excluding the laws of the game and playing regulations apart from those relating to protective equipment. ESPNcricinfo understands that the coronial inquest is likely go significantly beyond those terms, with questions about short-pitched bowling and tactics set to be raised in hearings.
While not wishing to presume what will be covered by the inquest, Sutherland said CA would be providing full support to investigators. "It's through the NSW coroner's office and very much independent, but at the same time our view is that it is another opportunity to get to an improved position, a safer world," he said. "Recommendations that come out of that may well enhance this.
"This David Curtain review was initiated before there was any suggestion of a coroner's inquiry and all the information has been made available to the NSW coroner's office. We've offered all our support and co-operation to that office.
"Whether it covers any different ground to the brief we have I'm not sure, it's really something for the counsel assisting to comment on but from that perspective all we can say is that we welcome it. We will be involved in whichever way counsel assisting would like, and we offer all our support to work through that process."
Nevertheless, Sutherland stressed that any investigations of Hughes' death needed to balance the search for greater safety standards with an understanding of the game and its inherent risks, involving a hard ball delivered at speed.
"You'll see in the brief terms of reference we gave David Curtain that we needed to draw a line about the laws of the game and to have some perspective around that," Sutherland said. "You can make the game of cricket a lot safer by playing with a tennis ball, but that's not how Test cricket has been played and it would obviously be a very different game.
"We're not wanting to go there, but we do need to find the right balance in the circumstances to not compromise the way the game's played and not compromise the way in which the players are best equipped to show their skills."
One of the key findings of Curtain's report was a recommendation for the use of substitutes in cases where a cricketer has been concussed. CA intend to discuss this regulation at ICC meetings at the end of this month, and Sutherland said its introduction in first-class cricket may lead logically to its use in Test matches. He also opened the possibility of substitutes for other injuries.
"One of my observations is that while we support this recommendation being explored it needs to be fully discussed and socialised," he said. "One of the fundamentals of the game of cricket is that it's a game of 11 players and a substitute has not been allowed in the past, and we need to work through all the machinations of that possibility.
"The fundamental issue here is the desire for medical staff to have the ultimate say in an incident of concussion, to be able to make a judgment and to allow that to be facilitated as easily as possible. It remains to be seen how that discussion will go in May, but it is complicated and it needs to be thought through.
"There's a broader conversation about a concussion substitute, that's the type of injury that could give rise to a substitution. But there is also instances in the game when other injuries occur that could also give rise to a substitution. I guess that's part of why this needs to be a broader discussion than just simply about concussion."
Alex Kountouris, CA's head of sports science, is working with various regulatory authorities about developing hard guidelines for helmets and neck guards, among other things. He said that the possibility of concussion and injuriy substitutes was something that cricket needed to discuss.
"We've put it to the ICC that we want to trial it and see what sort of impact it has," he said. "Does it make it that much easier for the medical staff to take a player off the field when they have concussion? We want to give it a go at whatever level possible, whether it's first-class cricket or white-ball cricket and see whether it has an impact on how we manage concussion.
"Players just need time to adapt to these changes. We saw helmets back in the 1980s and 90s, helmets didn't have a visor, now every helmet's got a visor. Maybe in 20 years every helmet will have a neck protector and we'll look back at helmets and say why didn't they have that back then. It's an evolution, players have got to get used to wearing the helmets and the materials as well."