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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2007, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Brighter future for cricketers
By Pranav Soneji

Kevin Pietersen poses for a photo with his sunglasses
Substance over style for Kevin Pietersen

Sartorial elegance is often the most important criteria for fashionistas when it comes to the ideal pair of sunglasses.

And you could be forgiven for thinking the same parameters apply for a select group of cricketers judging by their eyewear of choice.

But the natty wraparound sunglasses serve a more serious purpose than just aesthetics. In fact, they could potentially revolutionize the way the game is played.

As well as blocking harmful ultraviolet light emitted from the sun, advances in optical technology now mean players have the option of using lenses which increase the amount of light in their field of vision.

Such technology could have come in very handy at Lord's last week when bad light prevented England from beating India in the first Test.

Fast forward five years and bad light stopped play could find itself confined alongside underarm bowling in the bin of cricket history.

One man who has worked extensively in this field is England and Wales Cricket Board optometrist Nick Dash, who configures the England players' individual sunglasses depending on their optical needs.

"Certain sunglasses can increase the contrast of different colours and are often perceived as increasing the visibility of specific tasks," he told BBC Sport.

It wouldn't be fun facing a bowler charging in at 95mph with your glasses misted up

Kevin Pietersen

"Players often have two or three different lens types, one which is used in bright light and one that is used at the end of the day.

"So you can have a lens that allows 28% of the light in and one that allows 50%.

"However, a great addition over the last month or so has been the photochromic/transition lenses that enhance the red ball but also change darkness depending on the amount of light."

Most England players use lenses which specifically filter light from the green end of the spectrum, enhancing the red end of light and therefore making the ball more visible in all conditions.

Great news for fielders, not so great for batsmen, who probably spend more time staring at the ball than any other players.

As batting helmets tend to get hot very quickly, sunglasses worn underneath are more than likely to mist up at inopportune moments.

As Kevin Pietersen succinctly told BBC Sport: "It wouldn't be fun facing a bowler charging in at 95mph with your glasses misted up."

Matt Prior in action against India at Lord's
Prior has been using cutting edge contact lenses during play

According to Dash, vented lenses are available on the market, but no company has completely resolved the issue.

But one major advancement has been the introduction of tinted contact lens, an innovation which has been embraced by baseball players in the United States as well as England wicket-keeper Matt Prior.

"Unlike sunglasses these lenses sit directly on the wearer's eye, reducing visual distortion and giving clear vision from all angles," said Dash, who is based at Loughborough University.

"They suppress the blue end of the spectrum and relatively enhance the red end so you can see a red ball stand out much more against a confusing background, making it pop out.

"These lenses are based on a red/orange tint and research has shown that choosing the correct tint can improve depth perception.

"However, the issue is less critical when batting because the helmet shades the eyes and so limits the glare issues."

The optical industry isn't one that rests on its laurels, so expect to see a Test batsman wearing a pair of mist-free sunglasses under a helmet in the not too distant future.


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