I had a flashback: Smith’s big fear when bouncer struck
IN the terrifying seconds after Steve Smith was struck at Lord's he had flashbacks of the fatal blow Phillip Hughes received to the same part of the neck.
The batsman, who is gripped by theatrical tics and twitches at the crease, says however that he still won't be wearing a stem guard because even that slight change to his routine raises his heartbeat. The small protector at the back of the helmet, he says, makes him feel as claustrophobic as if he were in an MRI machine.
Smith spoke for the first time about the incident since the events at the second Test at Lord's saw him ruled out of the final day of that draw and an anxious spectator to the historic loss at Headingley.
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He has scores of 144, 142 and 92 in the series - his first since returning from a 12-month ban and will test his fitness in a tour match against Derbyshire on Friday, but appears to have recovered from the concussion caused by a Jofra Archer bouncer to the side of the neck.
Smith admits he was feared the worst as he fell face forward onto the pitch.
"I had a few things running through my head, particularly where I got hit, just a bit of past came up - if you know what I mean - from a few years ago," he said referring to the day Hughes was struck and died in a Sheffield Shield match between NSW and SA.
"That was probably the first thing I thought about, then I was like 'I'm OK here' and I was alright."
Smith lay motionless in those first moments and the cricket world held its breath. Then he began to stir.
He left the field and returned to score 12 more runs after passing an initial concussion test, but said the flashback to November 2014 remained with him.
"I was a little bit sad but I was alright mentally for the rest of that afternoon," he said. "I felt pretty good, passed all my tests and was able to go and bat and then it wasn't until later that evening that it hit me.
"When the doc asked me what did it feel like I said it felt like I had six beers last night and felt a little but under the weather - without the six beers unfortunately. That was the sort of feeling I got, that groggy feeling and that stuck around for a couple of days."
Stem guards were developed following the Hughes tragedy, but they are not mandatory and a lot of batsmen won't wear them. Smith is obsessive about his circumstances when batting. He tapes down his shoe laces, changes gloves constantly and can battle for hours in the nets because he "forgets" how to hold a bat.
He has tried a stem guard in the past and even since the incident but says it causes too much stress.
"I tried them the other day when I was batting and I reckon my heart rate went up about 30 or 40 straight away," he admitted. "I just feel claustrophobic.
"I compare it to being stuck in an MRI scan machine.
"It was different, but I think at some point they're probably going to become mandatory so I'm going to have to get used to them.
"And I'm sure the more I wear them, the more I practice with them, my heart rate will come down and everything will be okay.
"Had I been wearing a stem guard in the game, I'm not sure that would have made a difference, the way my head sort of went back and where it hit me.
"Of course, you always want to have as much protection as possible and for me now it's about trying it and trying to get used to it in the nets."