Steve Smith is trialling a StemGuard after being hit by a bouncer at Lord’s, but says he finds them claustrophobic. (Reuters: Andrew Boyers)
Steve Smith has opened up about his reluctance to wear a StemGuard, likening the clip-on helmet attachment to being “stuck in an MRI scan machine”.
- Steve Smith is trying out StemGuards as he looks to return to the Ashes series after being struck in the neck at Lord’s
- The neck protectors — designed after the death of Phillip Hughes — are expected to be made compulsory from next year
- Some top cricketers say they don’t like wearing them, finding the protectors too restrictive
Smith wasn’t wearing a StemGuard during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, where he was hit on the neck by a Jofra Archer bouncer.
Australia’s best batsman retired hurt after the blow, returned to bat then was diagnosed with delayed concussion that forced him to sit out the final day of the second Test and then the third match of the series.
Cricket Australia (CA) is expected to make the neck protectors, designed in the aftermath of Phillip Hughes’s death in 2014, mandatory next year but their use is currently only recommended.
Smith, who has previously described himself as a “headcase” at the crease because of a list of quirks that include taping his shoelaces to his socks so they’re not an unsightly distraction, now has a major dilemma.
The 30-year-old knows he should wear a StemGuard, starting with the Derby tour game that starts on Thursday, and wants to.
But the protective equipment just doesn’t sit right in the eccentric genius’s batting bubble.
“I’ve tried them before and I tried them the other day when I was batting (in the nets) and I reckon my heart rate went up about 30 or 40 straight away,” Smith said.
“I just feel claustrophobic. I compare it to being stuck in an MRI scan machine.
“They’re probably going to become mandatory, so I’m going to have to get used to them.
“I’m sure the more I wear them, the more I practice with them, my heart rate will come down and everything will be OK.”
Smith added it was unclear whether the attachment would have absorbed the impact and/or made any difference to his injury in London because of “the way my head sort of went back and where it hit me”.
David Warner is among the other players who also find StemGuards restrictive and uncomfortable, noting in 2016 he does “not and will not wear” one because it “digs into” his neck and is a distraction.
Tim Paine argued last week that “everyone playing cricket should be wearing them”, while former Test opener Chris Rogers suggested the sooner StemGuards became mandatory the better.
Ben Stokes’ StemGuard came off when he was hit in the helmet by a ball from Josh Hazlewood at Headingley. (Reuters: Lee Smith)
Smith’s frightening scare has prompted players from both Australia and England, such as Travis Head and Ben Stokes, to reconsider their reluctance.
Stokes didn’t use a StemGuard at Lord’s but changed tack at Headingley, where it fell off when the all-rounder was struck on the helmet by a Josh Hazlewood bouncer during his match-winning knock.