Kolkata: In a quirk of fate, Ankit Keshri was only the 12th man for East Bengal in the fateful game last Friday, and came on to the field a little earlier as team member Arnab Nandi took a break.
Ankit Keshri. Pic/PTI
"He was not in the playing eleven. Railways all-rounder Nandi had gone out for some reason, and Kesri went in as a replacement. Only a few overs were left in the match," said a Cricket Association of Bengal official, narrating the sequence of events during the senior knockout tournament match between East Bengal and Bhowanipore culminating in Keshri's fatal head injury.
Left-arm pacer Sourav Mandal was bowling then, and the batsman spooned a high catch towards the cover. Mandal ran on his follow through, while Keshri - patrolling the sweeper cover - also charged towards the ball.
They collided and Mondal's knee hit the back of Keshri's head near the ear.
"He fell unconscious, and blood started oozing out of his mouth. I rushed in, and found he was not breathing. I tried to resuscitate him by giving mouth-to-mouth respiration. His teeth were firmly clinched. And I had to apply lot of force to open his mouth."
"After a few seconds, he started breathing again. It is as if he had come to life form the dead," said Shiv Sagar Singh, a Bengal discard, and now an East Bengal player.
"The doctors stationed in the ambulance close to the ground then ran in and after examination, sent him to the hospital close to the ground," said Singh.
The 20-year-old promising opener, who earlier led the Bengal Under-19 team, died of cardiac arrest at a private hospital on Monday.