Hughes death a grim reminder to Patil

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:39 am IST

Published - November 27, 2014 11:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

He oscillated between life and death, not really scared but certainly mighty relieved when he returned to the cricket field with the bat in hand, and, of course, the helmet in place too.

For chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil, the sad passing away of Phil Hughes was a grim reminder of his encounter with a similar situation at the same ground in Sydney in 1981,

It was a warm day and the breeze was a welcome respite from the tormenting Australian bowlers.

Tea was approaching and Patil, on his first tour, was just a bit relaxed.

He had done well and he was patting himself when Rodney Hogg, a mean fast bowler, struck him on the neck. Patil was woken up from his contrived state of slumber. “It pained,” recalled Patil.

He retired for tea at 65. And then, on resumption, retired hurt at the same score, hit on the left ear by Len Pascoe.

“I was a split-second late in reacting. I wanted to hook and then leave the ball. Well, Pascoe was real quick,” said Patil, affording laughter today at his miscalculation.


It was a nightmare at the pitch later, and, subsequently for many years.

During the tea break, the legendary Gary Sobers chided Patil for wearing helmet. “You are batting so well, why do you need the helmet, Sir Gary told me.”

Flattered by Sobers’s praise, Patil discarded the helmet, wore a floppy hat, and soon came to grief. This time Pascoe hit him. And hurt him.

“My initial reaction was shock. I saw stars. I remember walking and that was not advisable. Yograj (Singh) and Bapu (Nadkarni) asked me to walk and I just collapsed.

“The next thing was I passed out and then moved to a hospital,” Patil recalled that torrid experience.

In that moment of passing out on the pitch, Patil saw Pascoe’s figure crouching over him. When he regained consciousness the next morning, he opened his eyes to find Pascoe in front again.

“He had insisted on visiting me and that’s the time I had come to senses,” said Patil. It was a comforting thought to see his ‘foe’ become a friend but things remained unchanged on the field that day.

Patil, asked to bat in the second innings by skipper Sunil Gavaskar, was greeted by a bouncer from Dennis Lillee.

“They (the Aussies) are unsparing on the field,” he added.

“I was extremely lucky to survive because I had collapsed twice and there was no ready medication at the ground. My head was splitting with pain and I was on a liquid diet. I remember Karsan Ghavri bringing all kinds of milk shakes but my mind was on getting back to the field. I thank Sunny (Gavaskar) for showing the faith in me. The blow (from Pascoe) shook me but also made me more determined.”

Patil responded with a sensational 174 in the next Test at Adelaide against Lillee, Pascoe and Hogg.

“I overcome the fear and anxiety of being hit because of support from my teammates,” said Patil, who thereafter wisely chose to wear helmet at all times. It is another matter he was never hit again.

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