Nari Contractor is enjoying one of the greatest comebacks. The former India captain, who was hit on the head by a Charlie Griffith bouncer 47 years ago (March 22, 1962), turns 75 today. The crushing blow may have necessitated a steel wire mesh to be inserted in his skull but it failed to crush his spirit for life and the game.
In fact, Contractor’s resolve came to the fore immediately when a year after the incident, he padded-up again. He made enough runs to deserve a call-up to the Indian team again. The selectors, though, didn’t want to risk fielding him again.
In his last Duleep Trophy game Contractor made 130 and 9. It was in the run-up to the selection committee meeting to pick the team to Australia. Contractor wasn’t picked for the Champions versus Rest of India game that followed the Duleep match.
“The selectors probably felt if I had scored in that game (Champions vs. Rest of India) also they wouldn’t be able to ignore me for the Australia tour,” Contractor told DNA.
He made 2,535 runs in the second half of his career. His First Class average between 1962-63 to 1970-71 was 38.40, just a shade below his 40.50 prior to being struck by Griffith. These numbers show that Contractor remained at the peak of his powers even after that fateful day at Kensington Oval against the Barbados side.
“In my next life also I would love to play Test cricket, be paid Rs250 per game, suffer the injury, play again and enjoy my days with my loving family. I have had a happy life and I really don’t mind living it all once again,” Contractor, who received the Lifetime Achievement award from the BCCI last year, said.
Another brave act played out by Contractor was in 1959 at Lords, where he went onto to make 81 after suffering two broken ribs when struck on 0.
On Monday morning, Contractor is set to fly to the West Indies, where he will deliver the Sir Frank Worrell lecture on Technology in Cricket. He will also inaugurate the Frank Worrell blood banks during the trip. Worrell was among those who donated blood after Contractor was injured.
“It was an advantage to have Sir Frank Worrell as the opposition captain. It was easy to get along with him,” Contractor said recalling the 1961-62 series. He remembered how Worrell had taken time out to warn the Indians about Griffith on the eve of the game. “Worrell said, ‘His action is not clean but he is very very fast’.” After Griffith hit contractor, Worrell condemned the incident.
Contractor wants to clarify that he never ducked that bouncer. “As a superstition, I never took first strike. But since Dilip (Sardesai) was opening for the first time, I took strike and faced the first six balls from Griffith. It was as Griffith was to deliver the fourth ball of his second over that somebody opened a window in the pavilion. There were no sight screen at that time and my 100 per cent concentration wasn’t on that delivery. I saw it just inches away before it hit me. But it isn’t true that I ducked.”
Contractor has enjoyed every bit of his second life, including coaching at the Cricket Club of India for many years.
“I wish I could have played for India again,” he said as his voice tapered off. “I wanted to contribute more. But I am not bitter about it. I have never asked for an opportunity or a position. I have done whatever has been asked of me. One wishes for many things in life but it doesn’t happen that way… I have no regrets whatsoever.”
“While batting, it is most difficult to get the first 25 while in life, it is the last 25 that are the most difficult,” he said.
Original article here.