The incident happened 52 years before Phil Hughes was delivered a sickening blow on his helmet in Sydney on Tuesday.
“We were all frightened and shocked,” said Chandu Borde, recalling the moment when Nari Contractor went down after ducking into a short-pitched delivery from West Indies’ Charlie Griffith.
The year was 1962 and India was taking on host Barbados in a practice game ahead of the third Test. The left-handed Contractor, the Indian captain, was struck a severe blow in the area close to his right ear.
“Those were days when there were no helmets, no restriction on the number of bouncers in an over and no restrictions on beamers either. The pitches were uncovered. But it was the same for everyone then and we were prepared for the challenge. No complaints,” said Contractor to The Hindu on Tuesday.
“I don’t remember much about the incident. But I must thank the fellow cricketers who donated blood for me, and the surgeon who conducted the emergency operation. I was in the operation theatre for a long time.”
Contractor, a brave batsman and a promising captain before the grievous blow ended his international career, notched up 1611 runs in 31 Tests at 31.58.
Now, 80, he said, “I wish Hughes a speedy recovery. My prayers are with him.”
Travelling back to that fateful day in Bridgetown, Borde said, “An emergency operation had to be performed on Contractor. And the surgeon who performed the life-saving first operation was not a neurosurgeon. But the operation had to be performed since Contractor was becoming paralysed on one side.”
In fact, a specialist neurosurgeon flew in only the next day from Trinidad and Tobago and Contractor underwent another surgery. “He went through a very difficult time but let me tell you Nari was a very tough character,” said Borde.Worrell’s gesture
Among those who donated blood for Contractor were the West Indian legend Sir Frank Worrell, Polly Umrigar, Bapu Nadkarni and Borde. “Worrell’s gesture, coming from the opposition, showed the game transcended boundaries,” noted Borde.
Borde recollected, “The match was not stopped after Contractor’s injury. In fact, a few overs later Vijay Manjrekar was hit on the nose by a nasty lifter from Griffith. You know, the odd delivery from Griffith was really quick.” It was also said that a few of Griffith’s deliveries were not delivered with a clean action.
“The times are different now. There is so much of protective gear. In our days, when we walked out to face men such as Wesley Hall or Griffith without helmets, we were not sure whether we would come back alive,” said Borde.