How Smith double ton won over guard doubters
Aussie cricketers have voted overwhelmingly to make neck guards compulsory as the game prepares to mark five years since the tragic death of Phillip Hughes.
Cricket Australia will look to enforce the use of the helmet attachment technology by midway through next year after the significant development of having their resolve to mandate safety backed by 80 per cent of elite male and female players in a recent survey.
It's felt Steve Smith's sickening concussion in the Ashes series and subsequent decision to wear the stem-guards may have been a key factor in changing attitudes across the country.
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Before being struck down by England speed demon Jofra Archer in the second Test at Lord's, Smith had likened wearing the neck guards to being "stuck in an MRI scan machine" and he embodied the feeling among many players that the protectors were too cumbersome by refusing to wear them.
When Smith made 211 at Old Trafford in his comeback Test while wearing neck protectors for the first time, it may have changed the minds of many players still feeling indifferent.
"I guess I got used to it pretty quick," Smith said recently.
"I never really gave it a chance in the nets (previously), I'd wear it for 10 balls and if I got out or something I'd say, 'nah this isn't working' and get rid of it.
"I walked in (to the rooms after getting 211) and I told the doc 'the StemGuards are good to stay now.'"
The majority of Australian Test players now wear the guards, but Marnus Labuschagne was one notable exception at the Gabba.
The inquiry into Hughes' death, five years ago this Wednesday, recommended that administrators pour resources into standardising neck technology with a view to making it compulsory. CA has spearheaded that process.
The nationwide survey of more than 240 elite players was conducted at a similar time to the Smith incident, where he was felled on the Lord's pitch by a delivery which struck him in an eerily similar spot to where Hughes' was fatally hit.
Key to Cricket Australia's plan to mandate neck guards has been a mission to work with manufacturers to fix things like sizes.
Previously, only one size has been available, meaning shorter players complained of the guards pressing on their shoulders, and taller players anxious that too big a gap was still being left.
Extensive testing from Cricket Australia will result in three sizes being created, which means all levels of the game will be properly serviced, not just those at the elite level.