Kolkata: The name of Nari Contractor, former Indian skipper who was struck by a Charlie Griffith bouncer on the West Indies tour of 1962, may strike a bell as a quiz question as the earliest - and possibly the most famous case of concussion injury in cricket till Phil Hughes. Now 88, Contractor was back in the news again when the metal plate inserted in his skull 60 years ago, was removed in a Mumbai hospital in a hour-long surgery on Wednesday.
The titanium plate, inserted by a neurosurgeon at Christian Medical College in Vellore, Tamil Nadu after Contractor returned from the Caribbean may gone on to become a vital piece of memorabilia in the history of Indian cricket. Contractor is now ‘‘stable’’ and is expected to be released in a few days from the Reliance Foundation Hospital.
“The surgery went off very well. He is stable and recovering well,” Contractor’s son, Hoshedar, said.
The incident was of major significance in the history of Indian cricket for having effectively curtailed the international career of Contractor, a bravehearted Parsi, though he continued to play the game for nearly 10 years after that. Sir Frank Worrell, captain of the then West Indies team, donated blood along with few of his teammates as Contractor was fighting for his life in a Brabados hospital. Worrell’s reputation preceded him in India where the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has named their annual blood donation camp on their foundation day as the ‘Frank Worrell Day.’
Speaking to Gulf News in a phone interview, Contractor’s son - a medium pacer who played for Mumbai as well as Under-19 India in the late ‘70s, said the family had no option but to decide on surgery. ‘‘The skin of the skull, where the plate was inserted, was degenerating and there was a huge amount of risk of infection. This could have led to something more serious like Meningitis,’’ Hoshedar said.
Asked how did Contractor cope with the after-effects of that injury, his son said Nari battled the setback with a great deal of positivity. ‘‘He was not the type to be bogged down in self-pity and continued to play first class cricket. In fact, he came close to being selected again for Australia’s visit but it didn’t happen,’’ Hoshidar said.
‘‘I was barely one year old when the incident happened. However when I wanted to take up the game, he encouraged me all the way. I was part of a Under-19 India team to tour Pakistan and picked up 15-16 wickets during the tour,’’ Hoshedar remembered.
The Contractor family is happy that much has been done for the safety of the batsmen and the International Cricket Council (ICC) has now introduced concussion substitutes. ‘‘The modern day protection is most welcome as it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you watch the IPL games, you will see there are so many incidents of batsmen being struck on the helmets,’’ Hoshedar said.
During a chat with this publication in 2014 after Phil Hughes’ injury, Contractor himself said the game should not tinker with its laws any further in favour of the batsmen. “You must realise that such an incident (Hughes) has happened after 52 years — it’s an accident,” Nari had said. The Australian, who was in coma, passed away a few days later.