The Proximity Of Steve Smith Came To Play In The Third Test > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - How close Steve Smith came to playing the third Test
Steve Smith would have played the Leeds Test if it had started a day later on Friday, according to some members of the Australian team management.
Smith had been ruled out of the third Ashes Test at Headingley two days out from the Test after having shown signs of concussion following a blow to the neck courtesy a Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord's. And although the Cricket Australia concussion policy does not have a fixed duration for a player returning to action, it's likely that Smith would have completed the different stages of recovery recommended in time for a Friday start.
Coach Justin Langer had admitted after having confirmed Smith's absence for the third Test that the premier batsman was "probably a couple of days from being fully fit".
Unfortunately, though, the tight scheduling of the Ashes series has meant that Smith will instead have to sit out and wait another 10 days before returning to Test cricket. That brings us to the question of whether cricket boards should consider recovery periods for players while drawing up schedules with back-to-back Tests.
Health and well-being should of course always be the ultimate deciding factor for a player to be deemed fit for duty. As England captain Joe Root put it, "this is a huge series and it means so much to all our players, but it doesn't mean that much in terms of someone getting seriously hurt." You still want the best players playing every game and missing out only based on performance or fitness and not protocol.
At the moment, the protocols for concussion and head injuries vary around the world. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) recommends a minimum six-day rest for a player who's been concussed or shown signs of it before he or she returns to the field. According to the CA policy, though a player cannot train or compete for 24 hours after being concussed, which is deemed as "complete physical and cognitive rest". But from that point on, he or she has to clear three stages before returning to "full training", following which it completely depends on the doctors clearing them for a full-fledged return.
The stages include light aerobic exercise, which involves "walking swimming or stationary cycling at around 70 percent maximum heart rate" but no strength or resistance training. The next step is sport-specific exercise, where the player undergoes running drills-50 m runs with 10 repetitions at 80 percent maximum heart-rate.
Upon having passed these stages, the player can then finally indulge in some "non-performing skills training", which may include batting, bowling and fielding drills along with facing throwdowns-a step you imagine Smith would have made the most of. Then comes the final step, where the player returns to full training and is then cleared for action.
Considering Smith did show up for the training session on Tuesday, when he was officially ruled out of the Leeds Test and was seen taking laps around Headingley on Wednesday (August 21), you'd imagine he was well on his way to complete recovery. It is believed he would have been cleared to resume his golden run with the bat in the series in case there had been one additional day between the second and third Tests.
But if concussion recovery periods were to become a factor in framing schedules, you wonder what the ideal yardstick would be in deciding the duration of the break between Tests, considering the variance in the protocols and policies for different boards. Maybe it's time then for the ICC to bring in a more uniform protocol for teams across the board and therefore enable more uniformity when it comes to scheduling.
At the end of the day, missing out on one Test may not have a massive bearing on Smith's career, even if he's coming off a one-year ban from international cricket. But imagine the impact a similar scenario could have on a younger or lower-profile cricketer. Take the case of Matthew Renshaw, who suffered from a concussion after being struck on the helmet while fielding at short-leg during a tour match against Pakistan A in Dubai last year.
Though he was escorted off the field immediately, he was then believed to have recovered quite well over the following two days. The CA protocols eventually ensured he couldn't be available for selection for the first Test against Pakistan despite being the front-runner to open in the absence of David Warner and looking fit enough to do so. Renshaw hasn't played a Test since, and has been overtaken in the interim by the likes of Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft and Joe Burns.
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