Almost 2000 overs were bowled during the recent test series between India and England, of which nearly two-thirds were delivered by spin bowlers. Such figures are routine for a lengthy sub-continent tete-a-tete. During tours of yore long periods of spin bowling would witness the batsmen involved eschewing their traditional headgear of choice in favour of the traditional cap. Indeed, the sight of an era’s most famous practitioners batting sans helmet is surely an archetypal image of test cricket in Asia.
Such images seem to be rapidly becoming an anachronism though. Despite spin bowlers delivering two out of every three overs during the aforementioned series very few were to a batsman whose head was adorned with anything other than a helmet. It is but a minor development but the helmet, although a necessity in the modern game, does tend to shroud the batsmen in a cloak of anonymity. Commentators will inform who is on strike and the astute can usually come to a correct conclusion regarding which batsman is at which end either by the player’s physique, stance or brand of bat, or a mix of all three, but the sight of a batsman in traditional cap or bareheaded is another of those rather frivolous moments which provides a sense of ethereal freedom. Maybe it’s the sight of the cap itself, providing a touchstone to times past. Not the rather incongruous baseball cap, which has become all but ubiquitous in modern sport, for the batsman at large but the baggy equivalent that possesses more than a whiff of those adorned during more formative years of the sport.
Nevertheless, the lack of a grill and helmet allows the watcher the chance to see better the batsman’s face, their expressions, the sweat and toil (literal and figurative) of forging an innings in trying circumstances. Twenty-first century cricket, and sport in general, lacks genuine characters and charismatic figures that add spice to the hurly-burly of the contest. Eschewing the helmet for a few overs provides an iota more insight into the characteristics and personalities of these intriguing figures who we watch regularly with almost maniacal zeal.
For many, such instances are irrelevant but in a modern world dominated by homogeneity these rapidly rare moments of distinction offer that extra glimpse to see beyond the bland, media trained, MCC manual coached facade that seems to have become the accepted norm.