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India vs West Indies flashbacks: When Nari Contractor was hit on his skull

Nari Contractor

Bengaluru, July 24: India will be playing against the West Indies in a two-Test series in the Caribbean between August 22 and September 3.

The rivalry between these two countries in Tests is legendary although in the recent times, India have clearly dominated in the longer format.

The last time the Windies had won a Test series against India was in 2002 when they came back from behind to clinch a five-match series 2-1. India have won all the series that have been played since then.

While India-West Indies Test rivalry has been made immortal by Sunil Gavaskar's dream debut in the 1971 series, it has also seen the near-fatal injury to Indian captain Nari Contractor in the 1962 series in the Caribbean island.

It was in March 1962 when India travelled to Barbados to play in a four-day side match against the local team after losing the first two Tests. Only 27, Contractor was the captain of the Indian side but had a poor run with the bat in the first two games. He was not supposed to play in that Barbados game, but because of too many injuries in the camp, he had to. After Barbados scored 394 in their first innings, Contractor came out to open with Dilip Sardesai.

Contractor's popularity was at its peak then. He had led India to their first-ever series victory over England the previous year and his technique against fast bowling was undisputed. He was set to equal Lala Amarnath's record of having captained India in most number of Tests - 15. He was seen up to as a captain who would lead India for years to come.

But all the hopes were dashed after Contractor took stance in that side game against Barbados. Charlie Griffth, a 23-year-old controversial fast bowler those days because of his suspect action, was the bowler. He opened the bowling with Wesley Hall. Contractor had played a number of reputed fast bowlers of that time and one wouldn't have foreseen what was coming even though the Indian batsmen had been warned ahead of the series.

The 'near fatal ball'

The near fatal ball that Contractor faced from Griffith was completely misjudged. It was called a "delivery that all but brought about a meeting between Contractor and St Paul," as eyewitness Dicky Rutnagur had said later.

Wisden said later: "He (Contractor) could not judge the height to which it would fly and bent back from the waist in a desperate split second attempt to avoid it and was hit just above the right ear.''

At first, the injury was thought to be not too serious but soon after he left the field, Contractor's condition deteriorated and by the night, he had a haemorrhage and his left side started getting paralysed.

A general surgeon was roped in since the nearest neurosurgeon was in Trinidad and he worked on removing the blood clot. The neurosurgeon came the next morning and he detected a second clotting getting formed and a half-paralysed Contractor was rushed back to the operation theatre for the second surgery. For the entire night, the whole Indian team was at the hospital, praying for its captain's recovery.

It was after a see-saw battle that the doctors managed to bring Contractor out of danger. It was considered no less than a miracle especially in those days when batsmen were not as protected as they are today.

Contractor got a steel plated inserted in his skull but he was no more in a shape to play. Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi took over the captaincy and even though Contractor returned to competitive cricket in 1963-64 and scored centuries in domestic circuit, he wasn't called again for national duty.

There were proposals to ban bouncers after the tragedy, but none other than Contractor was against it as he said that bouncers shouldn't be banned just because he was at the receiving end.

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Story first published: Wednesday, July 24, 2019, 14:17 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 24, 2019
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