Sunglasses are an essential accessory for cricketers at every level. Are they just expensive fashion accessories or an important tool?
You can't watch a first class or international cricket match these days without seeing several pairs of Oakley's scattered on the player's heads. The professionals have good reason to wear high quality sunglasses:
Modern sport shades offer protection against harmful UV light. For players spending several days a week in the field at the height of summer this is essential. UV protection can help prevent cataracts, cancer and other eye damage.
While you may not spend as long in the sun as a professional a pair of UV protective glasses can do the same for you.
What else can sports eyewear do for you?
- Protect from impact eye injuries, especially for higher risk fielding positions like wicketkeeper and short leg.
- Polarised glasses reduce glare, stopping you from squinting.
- Prescription lenses can reduce blur, which has been proven to reduce performance in ball sports
- Some models can enhance red colour against green background, making it easier to pick up the ball.
It's worth noting that dress/street sunglasses offer good UV protection but are dangerous to wear on the pitch as they are not designed to stay on under pressure. They also are more likely to shatter on impact. Stay away from them and stick to a sports pair.
So, if you play cricket regularly it makes sense to wear sports sunglasses because they protect your eyes. If you take that as an essential element, it raises another question.
Will wearing the wrong sunglasses reduce your performance?
The problem of clarity
There is a massive disparity in prices between makes and models of sports eyewear despite offering UV and impact protection of roughly equal levels.
Some of it is branding but - according to leading manufacturer Oakley - lens quality is a major difference. In other words, cheaper lenses distort your viewing clarity.
There is no doubt that blurring is an issue. In a 2003 study, tennis players who had their eyes artificially blurred saw a 25% drop in performance. No study has been done on cricket as far as I know, but it's safe to assume roughly similar results.
Even top of the range shades will blur a little compared to the naked eye, so there is always some compromise.
Expensive lens manufacturers - Oakley and Adidas - claim lenses make a significant difference to clarity, distortion and eyestrain compared to other makes. It's important to take these results with a pinch of salt. After all, these guys are hardly going to make their product look bad or go out of their way to highlight cheaper lenses that perform just as well.
That said, most people I have spoken to personally who own Oakley frames sing their praises from on high. Additionally, top coaches such as Mark Garaway have told me they have seen impressive research from Adidas when the began supplying England. There is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence to back the manufacturer's claims.
Whether the claims are true or not, are cheaper lenses so poor as to hurt performance?
The jury is still out on that one, as no research has been done.
What sunglasses are best for cricket?
I would recommend some form of eyewear for all cricketers for UV ray protection. If you go with cheaper lenses you may find a compromise on clarity, although it's unclear if this enough to reduce performance.
That means, if you can afford them, Oakley glasses seem to be the best for cricketers.
Which models are best? That is largely a matter of personal style preference. Radar, and M-Frame are popular because they offer a wider viewing angle. Design is a matter of choice.
There is also a large selection of lens types for different conditions. In general the best choices for cricket are:
- G26. Which are designed for target shooting and enhance reds and oranges against greens and blues. They are not quite as effective in very bright light.
- VR28. For sunny conditions. Reduces glare and enhances colour perception.
Of course, this does not mean you should only buy Oakley. The benefits of cheaper glasses like Sunwise are still important, especially UV protection. So base your decision on the best performance you can afford, and remember the most expensive isn't always the best or most needed.
Which glasses do you have, and which ones do you lust after?