Off the first ball of the 17th over, Darren Bravo crunched a lovely boundary off Jasprit Bumrah, suggesting he was not carrying any wounds, mental or physical, from his vicious bouncer that had disassembled his helmet. However, before he took guard for the next ball, he hunched down on the ground and began to drag himself to the pavilion. He had been cleared in the morning to resume his innings after the blow late on Sunday evening, but as is often the case with a concussion, the symptoms could relapse the next day. As it was with Australia’s Steve Smith when he was felled by a Jofra Archer’s bouncer at Lord’s.
But in the middle of his innings, Bravo felt dizzy and disoriented, and later after further medical inspection, was deemed “unfit to bat”, and Jermaine Blackwood was named the concussion substitute, reigniting debates on whether substitutes should be allowed for concussion, a like-for-like replacement as decided by the match referee. While most of the cricketing firmament agrees that concussion is a serious condition, and cricket was in fact late in realising its dangers, they differ on the substitution rule. Some feel that it’s harsh on bowlers, who are more prone to injuries in the middle of the match. Like West Indies paceman Shannon Gabriel in this match, and Miguel Cummins in the Antigua Test, leaving Jason Holder and Kemar Roach with the bulk of the bowling burden.
But, that’s a debate for another day. The question here is not about the unfairness to the bowlers, but why batsmen are getting hit on the heads so frequently nowadays. In the space of three weeks, we have already seen two substitutes — Marnus Labuschagne and Blackwood.
Former West Indies fast bowler Andy Roberts puts it down to technical ineptitude. “Batsmen getting hit was common in our days, but never on the head, despite the licence to bowl as many bouncers as we want. It was because their techniques were better. There was no helmet, so they weren’t pampered. They watched the ball, and there were some terrific hookers and pullers,” he had told this newspaper.
Bravo, for one, clearly didn’t watch the ball. He neither ducked, weaved or swayed from the line of the short ball, a sharp delivery that seemed to follow him. Tough as the delivery was, he completely took his eyes off it, as it cannoned onto the helmet. He was immediately attended to by the support staff and seemed quite comfortable throughout the remainder of the day.
Even the remarkable Smith was caught off-guard for a fleeting moment. He was crouching, but a split second’s indecision was all it took for the Archer rip-snorter to smash into his neck. A better technique and awareness would have helped both batsmen, though their replacements did jump in gleefully. Labuschagne made the best of the lucky break, scoring 59, 74 and 80 in his next three outings. Blackwood, whose last Test came as far back as 2017, too began briskly, taking on the Indian bowlers with panache. So while debates rage on over the rule, the substitutes seem to be making the most of it.
Scoreboard (Lunch, Day 4):
India first innings 416 in 140.1 ovs. Windies first innings 117 in 47.1 ovs. India 2nd innings 168/4 dec in 54.4 ovs.
West Indies 2nd Innings 146/4 in 41 overs [J Campbell c Kohli b Shami 16, K Brathwaite c †Pant b I Sharma 3, D Bravo retired hurt 23, S Brooks not out 36, R Chase lbw b Jadeja 12, S Hetmyer c Agarwal b I Sharma 1, J Blackwood not out 34, Extras 21; FoW: 1-9 (Brathwaite, 2.3 ov), 2-37 (Campbell, 7.4 ov), 2-55* (Bravo, retired not out ), 3-97 (Chase, 27.5 ov), 4-98 (Hetmyer, 28.4 ov); Bowling: I Sharma 10-3-29-2, J Bumrah 8-3-22-0, Shami 12-1-44-1, R Jadeja 10-1-33-1, H Vihari 1-0-3-0]
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