1975 survivor Ewen Chatfield delighted to see Sean Abbott return

Updated: Dec 17, 2014, 08:55 IST | Clayton Murzello |

Former New Zealand pace bowler says devastated Australian fast bowler Sean Abbott did the best thing possible by returning soon after the tragic death of Phillip Hughes

There are several instances of batsmen getting hit on the head in Test cricket, but the injury to Phillip Hughes ended up being fatal.

Ewen Chatfield
Ewen Chatfield 

The one that came closest to what eventually happened to Hughes, was Ewen Chatfield, the former New Zealand fast bowler. Batting at No 11 with his future captain Geoff Howarth at the other end, he was knocked down by England's Peter Lever in the Auckland Test of 1975.

Chatfield's heart stopped beating for a few seconds. He had also swallowed his tongue after the blow. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from England's physiotherapist Bernard Thomas saved his life. Chatfield suffered a hairline fracture on his skull.

That night...
Lever experienced what New South Wales pacer Sean Abbott is enduring now. "Peter came to see me in hospital that night along with Alec Bedser, the team manager.

NSW's Sean Abbott celebrates the wicket of Queensland's Ben Cutting at Sydney December 9. Pic/Getty Images
NSW's Sean Abbott celebrates the wicket of Queensland's Ben Cutting at Sydney December 9. Pic/Getty Images 

He was shaken; he obviously thought I could have got killed. It could have put me out of the game for good," Chatfield told mid-day from his Wellington residence. He returned to the international fold two seasons later. Chatfield hailed Abbott's return to first-class cricket.

"That is great. That's the best thing he could have done really. The longer he waited to get back on the field, the harder it would have been to start playing again. I am very pleased to see the young fella bowl and get wickets," said Chatfield of Abbott's comeback in which he claimed six Queensland wickets on December 12.

As expected, the 64-year-old former medium pacer was in total disagreement with all talk relating to the banning of the bouncer. He also found suggestions of having more protection at the back of the helmet improper.

"Look, it was a freak accident with Hughes. If you put too much protection at the back of the helmet, you won't be able to move your head — side to side and up and down, it will affect you," he said.

Chatfield never went into bat without a helmet when they were introduced. Had it not been for the headgear, he would have been down again when rookie Wasim Akram struck him on the head a decade after his 1975 injury. It was a blow that forced him to have tea during the break in Carisbrook, something he never consumed.

Bernard Thomas
England's physiotherapist Bernard Thomas, the man who saved Ewen Chatfield's life. Pic/Getty Images

The tea ended up on the floor of the dressing room because he was shaking. Eventually, he battled on to help NZ win the Test by two wickets. Nicknamed Charlie/Naenae Express/Farmer/Chats, he ended his career with 123 wickets in 43 Tests.

Chatfield, a cabbie now

Employed by Corporate Cabs in Wellington. Chatfield's Ford taxi has often ferried sportspeople. On the West Indies' last year's tour to New Zealand, Chatfield had Caribbean captain-turned-manager Richie Richardson and coach Ottis Gibson as passengers, who wanted to be dropped at the golf course. Chatfield is also proud to have driven former New Zealand rugby captain Richard McCaw.

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