YORKSHIRE pace bowler Steve Patterson believes that cricket must be careful not to over-react in the wake of the horrific head injury suffered by Nottinghamshire seamer Luke Fletcher.
Fletcher was struck on the skull when Birmingham Bears batsman Sam Hain drilled the ball straight back at him during the NatWest T20 Blast match at Edgbaston on Saturday.
The 28-year-old was taken to hospital and is now recovering from the chilling accident, which has led to calls in some quarters for bowlers to wear protective headgear.
But while echoing the universal concern and goodwill for Fletcher, whom he regards as a friend, Patterson feels that it would be a step too far for bowlers to wear protective masks or helmets.
Speaking at a rainswept Wantage Road last night, where Yorkshire’s NatWest T20 Blast match against Northants was abandoned without a ball being bowled, Patterson said: “It was obviously very concerning to see what happened to Luke, but I think we have to be careful not to over-react.
“I think it’s difficult to bring in protective equipment; if they could design something that wouldn’t affect the way you play, then possibly, but I don’t think that would be easy. I think we have to be careful not to get carried away, because it was a freak incident and not something that happens every week.
“Luke is a fantastic lad and a real gentleman, and the most important thing is that he’s making a full recovery.”
Patterson said that he had never felt worried about being hit while bowling in an era where bats are getting bigger and the game is getting faster.
T20 has seen scoring rates skyrocket and batsmen strike the ball ever more powerfully, raising concerns of potential injury.
However, Patterson believes it is not so much bowlers who are at risk as umpires, who are just as much in the firing line from thumping straight drives.
He added that the only time he had personally felt perturbed was during net practice, where the ball can sometimes rebound at unpredictable angles.
“I’ve never felt nervous about being hit in a game,” said Patterson.
“Where I have felt a bit uncomfortable at times is in the nets, because in your peripheral vision you’ve got balls going everywhere and sometimes they can hit the side net, they can hit poles, they can hit the roof and come off at all kinds of angles.
“In fact, I’ve got a scar from bowling to Lythy (Yorkshire batsman Adam Lyth) in T20 practice when he hit one into the side net, it struck the metal pole, rebounded off and hit me on the side of the face.
“But, if anything, being hit on the field is probably more of a concern for the umpires, because batters are trying to hit the ball past the bowler at the end of the day and the umpires are probably as vulnerable as anyone.”
Patterson believes that protective headwear for bowlers might also dilute the drama of cricket.
He feels that part of sport’s appeal is the very fact that it is dangerous.
“We get into sport for a reason,” he said.
“Part of the excitement of cricket, for instance, is that people are brave and that batters do run down the pitch and attack the ball.
“I think you’ve just got to get on with it at the end of the day; it’s part and parcel of the job.
“You could look at any sport and say that there’s a danger to it, and if you try to take away all that element of risk then a lot of the enjoyment and excitement would perhaps go with it.”
There was no danger of any bowler being hit by the ball at Wantage Road, where steady rain meant that Yorkshire and Northants had to settle for one point each. Yorkshire return to NatWest T20 Blast action on Friday when they play Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Patterson has played his part in the club’s two T20 matches so far, returning 2-39 in the win against Notts at Headingley and then his side’s best figures of 2-19 from four overs in the defeat to Derbyshire at Chesterfield.
The 33-year-old has only played 40 T20 career games and has not always been an automatic pick in other formats this year, so he is simply relishing being involved.
“It’s nice to be playing,” he said.
“When you’ve played pretty much every game for the past seven or eight years as I have, to then go through periods where you’re not playing is obviously frustrating.
“But competition for places is healthy and, as long as we’re performing as a team, that’s all that matters.
“I haven’t played much T20 cricket over the years, but I feel that I’ve got something to offer in that format.”