For a game that professes to be gentlemanly, with its existence of tea breaks, spirit of cricket, and Brendon McCullum, cricket also deals with its share of broken noses, black eyes, and skull fractures. If anything, the tragic death of Phillip Hughes has offered an acute reminder to cricketers, more specifically batsmen, of their mortality. Wisden India looks at ten batting injuries — resulting in a piece of bone lodged in a ball, psychiatric problems and even a heart-stopping moment — and the cricketers who survived to tell the tale.
Mitchell McClenaghan – facial injury
The New Zealand pacer was batting against Pakistan in a One-Day International in Wellington in January 2016 when the penultimate ball of the innings, delivered by Anwar Ali, burst through the peak of his helmet and its grille to hit him on the left eye. He retired hurt and left the field to receive stitches on his left eyebrow, but was okay enough to tweet a picture with message on his condition and congratulations to his team on their victory.
Thanks for all the concerns. Everything is as good as it can be just a few broken bones. Great win for the boys! pic.twitter.com/S9A2pZqETa
— Mitchell McClenaghan (@Mitch_Savage) January 25, 2016
Stuart Broad – fractured nose
The England fast bowler had a similar experience in the the fourth Test at Old Trafford against India in 2014. A mistimed pull shot against Varun Aaron resulted in the ball squeezing through the grille and the visor of the helmet, striking Broad on his nose. He later posted a picture of himself with a bloodied, stitched up nose.
Much later, Broad admitted that the incident had affected his game and forced him to consult a psychologist. “I get nightmares still and I wake up thinking I have been hit in the face by a ball,” he said in March 2015. “Even when I get tired I see balls flying at me. My jaw clicks from it and if I have two glasses of wine I have black eyes.”
Craig Kieswtter – eye injury
While Broad was able to move past the incident eventually, a more severe blow to Craig Kieswetter halted his career. The England and Somerset wicketkeeper was at the crease in a County Championship match in Northamptonshire in July 2014 when a ball from David Willey, Northamptonshire’s left-arm seamer, struck him in the face between the grille and helmet. Kieswetter was diagnosed with a broken nose and fractured cheek bone, forcing him to undergo surgery, but his vision problems remained.
A year later, Kieswetter announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. “Having gone through that experience of my eye injury and everything it entailed, I feel mentally I will never again be the player that I was,” he explained.
Anil Kumble – broken jaw
During the fourth Test against West Indies in Antigua in 2002, Kumble, batting at No. 7, had his jaw broken from a Merv Dillon bouncer. But instead of retiring hurt, Kumble spat out blood and batted on for another 20 minutes. For Kumble, the first priority was ensuring a draw with the series level at 1-1. The next morning, an x-ray confirmed the worst: Kumble was ruled out of the series and needed to return home for reconstructive surgery.
With time to kill before he was a flight back to India, he decided he “didn’t want to sit around”. Kumble came to bowl with a bandaged jaw and sent down 14 consecutive overs, getting the prize wicket of Brian Lara for 4. “At least I can now go home with the thought that I tried my best,” he explained. Fittingly, India managed to draw the game.
Mike Gatting – broken nose
Kumble wasn’t the only one who felt the brunt of West Indies’ pace attack. During an ODI in 1986 in Sabina Park, Malcolm Marshall ended up giving Gatting quite the nose job. The England batsman was wearing a helmet without a visor and paid the price when Marshall hit Gatting flush on the nose, before the ball spilled onto the stumps. To lend a macabre touch to the story, Marshall later found a piece of Gatting’s bone lodged in the ball!
Gatting was flown home for treatment, where a surgeon informed him that he was fortunate that the ball didn’t push the bone back into his brain. Counting his blessings, Gatting remembers the incident almost fondly: “I have a scar on the top of my nose between my eyes. I just think: aren’t I lucky?”
Mark Vermeulen – head injury
Some people, however, come away with much more than a scar. In an ODI against India in 2004, Zimbabwe’s Vermeulen top-edged a delivery from Irfan Pathan and the ball went in between his helmet and visor, hitting him above his right eye. The damage was serious as the batsman was diagnosed with a depressed skull fracture, having suffered a hairline skull fracture during a net session in the 2003 World Cup.
A three-and-a-half-hour surgery followed, but Vermeulen soon began to display erratic behavior. It culminated in an arson incident in 2006 where he was arrested after setting fire to the offices of the Harare Sports Club and the National Academy. He was cleared at a trial in 2008, his psychiatrist arguing that Vermeulen had been suffering psychiatric problems, including partial complex epilepsy, ever since that double blow to the head. Vermeulen was recalled to the Zimbabwe team, but a racist tirade on his Facebook account in 2015 led Zimbabwe Cricket to ban him from all cricket.
Craig Cumming – facial injury
During the second Test between South Africa and New Zealand in Centurion in 2007, a bouncer from Dale Steyn ended up rearranging Cumming’s face. The New Zealand batsman tried to hook the ball but was a fraction too late as the ball hit his helmet visor and broke his cheekbone and jaw.
Cumming was taken to a hospital where he was informed he would need surgery and intensive care, as he was a diabetic. A total of six metal plates were put into his cheek and one above his eye to hold his face together. Although Cumming’s international career more or less came to an end after the incident, he did strike up a friendship with Steyn. And when he says Steyn is one of the hardest bowlers he’s had to face, you can take his word for it.
Daniel Flynn – tooth injury
A tour of England can be a make-or-break one for a debutant batsman. For New Zealand’s Flynn, it was most definitely the latter. In the second Test at Old Trafford in 2008, a rising delivery from James Anderson hit the grille of Flynn’s helmet, knocking out his left front tooth in the process. With blood gushing out, the batsman had to retire hurt and pay a visit to the dentist.
Upon examination, it was discovered that the blow had cracked one of Flynn’s lower teeth as well, which had to be removed by the dentist. Flynn was nauseous and vomiting throughout the night and had to visit the hospital again the next day, but he ended up sitting out of the rest of the match.
As for Anderson, let’s just say sympathy isn’t his strong suit: “I asked him if he was alright, but I didn’t get a reply. It’s just one of those things. I’ve hit people on the head before but never had teeth to show for it.”
Ewen Chatfield – head injury
Another debut gone wrong was Chatfield’s. In the first Test against England in Auckland in 1975, New Zealand were staring at defeat after being forced to follow on. But Chatfield, a 24-year-old fast bowler, joined Geoff Howarth at the crease and frustrated the England bowlers with a tenth-wicket partnership. When Chatfield almost gloved a delivery to short-leg, Peter Lever decided to aim another at his glove.
This time, the ball deflected from Chatfield’s glove to his temple and he immediately fell to the ground. Though there was no doctor at the ground, Bernard Thomas, the England physiotherapist, came to Chatfield’s rescue. He noticed that Chatfield had swallowed his tongue and his heart had stopped beating — a sign that a person is clinically dead — but Thomas managed to administer mouth-to-mouth resurrection to bring Chatfield back to life. He was taken to a hospital and regained full consciousness; it turned out he had sustained a hairline fracture on his skull.
While Chatfield insisted Lever was not at fault, the England bowler was terribly shaken up by the incident: “I felt sick and ashamed at what I had done and all I could think when I got back to the pavilion was that I wanted to retire.”
Nari Contractor – ear injury
After the second Test against West Indies in 1962, the Indians travelled to Barbados for a game against a side whose pace attack contained Charlie Griffith, Wes Hall and George Rock. Barbados won the toss and put on 394. Contractor was facing a fiery over from Griffith when he got distracted while the fifth ball was being bowled and ended up getting hit above his right ear. A minute later, Contractor began bleeding profusely from his nose and ears and he was rushed to the nearest hospital.
His condition seemed to worsen, as he began throwing up and losing movement on the left side of his body. A series of surgeries were carried out with several players, including Sir Frank Worrell, donating blood. Contractor eventually regained consciousness, but the selectors, afraid of the risking his safety if he were to be hit on the head again, never picked him to play another Test again.