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Concussion controversy: It’s the rules that are wrong, not India’s use of them

Concussion Jadeja
by Aadya Sharma 3 minute read

When India replaced Ravindra Jadeja with Yuzvendra Chahal exactly midway through the first Australia-India T20I, there was expected furore surrounding the decision, with many wondering if India had conveniently used the concussion substitution law to cover for Jadeja’s hamstring injury.

Jadeja had clearly tweaked his hamstring before he top-edged a bouncer on to his helmet. Furthermore, the Indian medical staff weren’t immediately summoned, further raising questions over the extent of Jadeja’s head injury.

On Twitter, the C-word was injudiciously used to describe India’s swap, and what further dramatised the situation was that Chahal, the substitute, eventually ended with the Player of the Match award for his spell of 3-25.

Speculation aside, the entire process was followed in alignment with ICC’s rulebook on concussion assessment and substitution. It’s unfair to undermine the word of the medical staff, who felt that Jadeja showed symptoms of concussion, and immediately followed protocol.

The ICC’s concussion management guidelines read as follows: “An umpire is expected to call medical assistance if a player receives a significant head knock (unable to immediately return to play) or indeed has immediately worrying signs. In addition, a less severe helmet strike/head injury should demand immediate medical attendance if a player appears:

  • to have loss of consciousness
  • dazed
  • unable to stand or is staggering”.

Otherwise, after a blow to the head, the player should be examined at the end of the over, which in this case coincided with the end of the innings.

In the case of Jadeja, it’s unclear if the blow led to an immediate reaction, and that’s possibly the reason why the medical staff wasn’t called right away. Sanju Samson, in the post-match conference, mentioned that Jadeja revealed he was “feeling dizzy” only when he returned to the dressing room.

When the medical team felt that Jadeja showed signs of concussion, the management were well within their rights to submit a concussion replacement request to the match referee.

It’s also worth noting that, according to the concussion guidelines, “10-20 per cent of the cases have a delayed onset”, and it can take up to seven days for a player to fully recover from concussion.

Last year, Steve Smith developed delayed concussion during the second Ashes Test, after copping a blow from a Jofra Archer bouncer. According to a Cricket Australia statement then, “he slept well, but woke up with a bit of a headache and a feeling of grogginess”, and was replaced by Marnus Labuschagne, the first replacement of its kind in international cricket.

While the debate will rage on whether the hamstring injury, which occurred before the knock on the head, played a part in the decision, India’s request to replace Jadeja with Yuzvendra Chahal, the closest they could get to a like-for-like player in the current squad, seemed completely valid. The other players on the bench were: Mayank Agarwal, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah and Shreyas Iyer.

According to rule 1.2.7.2 of the World Test Championship playing conditions for concussion replacement, after “a concussion or suspected concussion must have been formally diagnosed by the Team Medical Representative”, “The ICC Match Referee should ordinarily approve a Concussion Replacement Request if the replacement is a like-for-like player whose inclusion will not excessively advantage his team for the remainder of the match.”

Again, David Boon, the match referee, seems to have followed protocol and approved the request.

Coach Justin Langer’s reaction was understandable: to see a bowler of the calibre of Yuzvendra Chahal replacing Jadeja for the second innings must have been hard to digest, but beyond some Australia feelings, there was no harm. A graver concern would have been had India’s medical staff been pressured to not follow up on a possible case of concussion, for fear of how it would be perceived.

That said, it would be naive to say that the current system doesn’t need tweaking. Much of the furore, in this instance, would have been negated had Jadeja been assessed by an independent medical official, appointed by the ICC, rather than one associated to India’s management. It’s likely to ensure consistency in diagnosis and the eventual response, but just as importantly, it will ensure that there is no room for doubt of any decision taken.

For now, the words of skipper Aaron Finch after the game seemed apt: “Their doctor had ruled Jadeja out due to concussion. You can’t be challenging a medical expert’s opinion.”

India followed the rules, and the outcome reached ensured a groggy Jadeja wasn’t forced to try and turn his arm over in the chase. The shame is that the questioning that came along with the incident was perfectly natural, and completely avoidable.

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