Whilst grumbling to myself about the end of play (due to light) last night, a thought suddenly occurred to me — with a red ball and a green pitch, can red-green colour-blind people play cricket successfully?
I can’t imagine why bowlers would be too badly effected, but batting and fielding could prove more difficult. With a sight-screen any difficulties should be reduced, and a lot of catches in the field have the sky as a backdrop, but there will still be occasions where the ball must be more difficult to pick out. So, are many of the players at the highest level colour-blind? It appears that the Australians have beaten me to it, and already done the hard graft to provide an answer to this question. The conclusion: at most levels colour-blind people are represented in line with their number in the population (around 10%), but at the very highest levels there are almost no colour-blind people at all (Bill Ponsford may be an exception to the rule. This Aussie legend played 29 test matches at an average of 48). It seems that at the very highest levels being colour-blind is a significant impediment. At all levels, players with colour-blindness found it difficult to see the ball across the grass and tended to avoid mid and deep fielding positions — captains take note! Other studies have shown that colour-blind batsmen are not significantly affected, for example having an average playing with a white ball no different from their average with the red ball.
So, it seems that whilst we’re not likely to find many colour-blind international test players, if you’re colour-blind and want to get down to the local club on a weekend, go and get stuck in! You could also invest in a pair of Oxy-Iso glasses, which apparently enhance reds and greens!
I should also say, there are several different conditions that fall under the blanket name “red-green colour-blind”, namely protanopia, deuteranopia, protanomaly, and deuteranomaly. If you think you may have one of these conditions but haven’t been diagnosed, please speak to your doctor (before or after the game) — we’re a cricketing website not a medical one!