It's a sad day for cricket. Australian Test batsman Phillip Hughes died in a Sydney hospital on Thursday, two days after being struck on the head by a cricket ball during a domestic first-class match. He was 25.
A somewhat similar incident took place fifty-two years ago. Former India captain Nari Contractor was struck on the back of the head by a rising ball from West Indies fast bowler Charlie Griffith, during a practice match in Barbados. He had a metal plate inserted into his head after his skull was fractured.
Contractor never played international cricket after that incident, though he did continue to play first-class cricket.
Hughes and Contractor both were roughly the same age with almost similar international Test experience and average when they got struck on the head by a bouncer.
In a recent interview to Mumbai Mirror, Contractor was surprised that a batsman can suffer an injury of such seriousness with helmet on. The former Indian captain was bareheaded in Barbados in 1962 when he was struck.
Describing that fateful match, Contractor told Mid Day in an interview, "It was the third over of the innings. The first ball from Griffith went past my nose in a flash.... My partner Rusi Surti had earlier shouted from the other end, ‘skipper, he is chucking.’ I walked up to Rusi and said, ‘you don’t shout across the wicket like that. If you think he is chucking, tell the umpire.’ My concentration was not there because of all these thoughts. Meanwhile, he bowled it and when I saw the ball, it was here (pointing to his face) and it hit me at 90 degrees. Soon, I was bleeding from my nose and ears..."
Contractor lay unconscious in the hospital for over 24 hours before he got proper medical assistance. And, it was no less than a miracle that he went on to play first-class cricket after that accident.
However, when Contractor was asked if a protection gear can prevent such mishaps, he said he wasn't sure.
"I am not sure if any technology or better technology can prevent such injuries. My injury took place in 1962 and it has taken 52 years for another such injury. You cannot ensure anything in cricket. The car glasses are bulletproof and still the bullet pierces through it," he told Mirror.
And in Hughes case, a helmet wasn't able to save his life.
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