Ben Coad is hopeful of being in a position to wear a personally designed bowling face mask during this summer’s Vitality Blast.
Coad, his brother Dan – through their Dac Sports clothing business – and Yorkshire physio Kunwar Bansil have been working together on designs to protect seamers and spinners against the dangers that come with batsmen hitting the ball further and harder in Twenty20 cricket.
There is still work to be done on something Ben initially put down on paper during last year’s first UK Coronavirus lockdown.
Getting a company in place to mould the plastic they plan to use is the main thing.
But the Yorkshire seamer believes it is still realistic to have something in place for the start of the Blast on June 10.
“We’ve got the model set out,” he explained. “But we still have some work to do on the safety side of things.
“As we are not the best manufacturers of things like this – myself, Dan, Dac Sports and Ku – we need to try and find someone who can actually make it.
“We have the design in place and will be trialling it in the next couple of weeks in the nets. That will just be for the fitting side of things, for a bowler to wear.
“But we can’t really put a timeframe on when it will be game ready and safe for a bowler to use.
“We might have something in place for the start of T20. That’s still a possibility. I’m hopeful, but we’ll see. It certainly won’t be ready for the start of the summer, but I wouldn’t wear it in red ball cricket anyway.
“I know what type of plastic we need, it’s just that us moulding it by ourselves is something we would struggle with.
“We can mould a thinner plastic, which is why we are in a position to trial the fitting side of things. But we are going to need someone else’s help to mould the plastic we are going to need for the actual thing.”
Luke Fletcher spent close to a year on the sidelines after being hit on the top of his head in his follow through whilst playing for Nottinghamshire against Birmingham in July 2017.
Bradford League player Alex Tait also suffered serious facial injuries after being struck whilst bowling at Lightcliffe’s winter nets earlier that year.
“It’s almost a case of us waiting for a fatality to happen, and I want something to be in place before that happens,” continued Coad in a chilling reminder of the game’s dangers.
“There’s more and more cases of things happening now with head injuries, and I think something needs to be out there.”
Coad, who first spoke about his plans to the Daily Telegraph prior to Christmas, went on: “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I started to put some things down on paper during the first lockdown with my brother.
“I’ve also spoken to Ku about it quite a bit just to get his knowledge from a physio’s point of view – where are the main areas you need to protect. He’s been heavily involved with designing things.
“If you’ve seen hockey masks and what they wear for short corners, it’s a bit like those.
“It will be thick, clear plastic which you can see through – and not just the eye sockets.
“It will then go over the top of your head to cover that area, because when you’re bowling your natural reaction when the ball comes back at you is to duck your head like Fletch (Luke Fletcher) did when he got hit.
“Weight wise, you certainly know you’ve got something on, but it won’t be too heavy.
“It’s just to try and stop the worst case scenario. It might still hurt if you get hit whilst wearing it.”
Coad, aged 27, says concerns over injuries have forced him to alter his practice plans when it comes to preparing for T20 cricket.
He added: “I don’t really bowl at batsmen in the nets in preparation for a T20 anymore. That feels even more dangerous with nets being so closed and there being metal poles around.
“I got hit last year on the inner thigh when Joe Root was batting. Thankfully it’s a fleshy area, but I got a huge bruise.
“I find that because of that it ends up being bad practice because I will bowl short so they have to cut or pull and not hit it back straight.
“Now, I just bowl into a mitt for T20 practice.
“It’s not something I think about in a game. It goes to the back of your mind. But when I’m watching T20 on the TV or at grounds and the ball flies back past the bowler and umpire, it always makes me stop and think.”
When Coad is ready to wear the mask in a game, he would follow Warren Barnes, a seamer for Otago Volts, who wore a bowling mask in New Zealand’s domestic T20 competition in late 2017.