March 12, 2014

Life savers

Alex Odell and Ross Armstrong
Ten cricket people who were heroes off the field: resuscitating spectators, donating blood, and stopping bullets

10 | Matt Prior and Stuart Broad
Having earlier that evening helped to raise £8,000 for The Broad Appeal - a charity set up by Stuart, his father Chris and sister Gemma to raise money and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease - Prior and Broad performed a dramatic 3am rescue on the Pyrmont Bridge in Sydney on the way back from a Barmy event during this winter's Ashes. Noticing a man behaving erratically, the England pair intervened and wrestled him back from the edge of the bridge before speaking to him for almost an hour until the cops showed up. A tale to warm the cockles in an otherwise dark, dark winter.

9 | Phil Gregory
Like most sensible people, the Podblast does not "have" Latin. However, a quick peek at Wikipedia tells us that the name "Gregory" means "alert". Which is exactly what Brixham Cricket Club secretary Phil Gregory had to be, as he successfully fought off masked muggers who, cornering him at 9.30pm after a club meeting, were trying to steal his members' annual subs. Note to muggers: trying to steal subs from a cricket club secretary is like trying to steal a lioness' cubs.

8 | Shoaib Akhtar
In the millennial year, Pakistan super-fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar took a break from his 140-yard run-up to sign a few autographs outside the Gabba after a Pakistan v India match. Seeing a nine-year-old boy dart into traffic, our hero Shoaib sprinted forward and plucked him from the air, inches from an oncoming taxi. Asked afterwards how he felt about saving a young boy's life, Shoaib admitted he was "pumped".

| Sir Frank Worrell
In 1962 the officiously named Nari Contractor, captain of the Indian touring side to the West Indies, should have known better than to momentarily take his eyes off a Charlie Griffith bouncer when somebody opened a window in the pavilion during a tour match against Barbados. A fractured skull and six days unconscious in hospital later, Contractor's life was thankfully saved, although he was never to play for India again. Sir Frank Worrell, captain of the Windies, was the first to donate blood to Contractor, at a rate of 8 per cent interest per annum, with a warranty as to damages.

6 | Andrew Hall's left hand
To sort of quote Lady Augusta in The Importance of Being Earnest, to be held up at gun-point once may be regarded as a misfortune, to be held up at gun-point twice looks like carelessness. Andrew Hall of South Africa and latterly Northants must have had Lady Augusta's words ringing in his ears as he was hijacked for 45 minutes in 2005 and held at gun-point by men who had asked to buy his car. Only a few years before, in 1998, just prior to his Test debut, Hall had been shot six times at point-blank range while taking his money from an ATM machine. What saved him? His left hand, which deflected the first bullet, a little bit like Neo in The Matrix. A film about Andrew Hall's left hand is in post-production and is scheduled for release this summer.

5 | Sachin Tendulkar
Did you really expect anything less? When former Indian under-17 player Dalbir Singh Gill was involved in a road accident, he struggled to raise the money for his operation. Then his mother did what the Indian cricket team has traditionally done every time it's in dire straits: she called on Sachin. The Littler Master was more than happy to pay the fee, and now the Indian equivalent of 999 also includes a Tendulkar option, officially making him India's fourth emergency service. Authorities have also considered projecting a giant (cricket) bat sign into the sky to notify Sachin whenever a civilian is in danger.

4| Alex Blackwell
Not only a busy and powerful Aussie bat but also a trained medical practitioner, if there are two things Blackwell knows, they are cricket and life-saving. Having trained as a medical student for four years while plying her trade as a cricketer, her two worlds collided when an 80-year-old spectator collapsed during a 2008 league match in Berkshire and the call went out for medical assistance. "We continued CPR for nine minutes and we thought we'd lost him for a minute, but continued until the paramedics arrived," recalls Blackwell. The man pulled through as Blackwell promptly won the game, saved some children from a burning building, and solved world poverty on the way home. Probably.

3 | WG Grace
WG's feats were so abundant and miraculous it is no surprise he "Graces" this list. This is a man who opened the batting for England at 50 years old, scored 839 runs in eight days during 1876 and scored over 54,000 first-class runs. Ever the multi-tasker (the 1874 tour of Australia doubled as his honeymoon and was largely spent studying medicine and demanding match fees close to £100,000 by today's standards) he qualified as a doctor in 1879 and his most conspicuous case came on the field of play when an unfortunate Lancashire fielder became impaled on the boundary fence at Old Trafford. A life saved, another paragraph in the memoir and on he went. Phew! He was very busy for a big man.

2 | Bernard Thomas
Test debuts are tricky enough to negotiate at the best of times, but what's the worst that can happen? It's not like you're going to end up flat on your back, unconscious, with a tongue down your throat. Mercifully the tongue in question was the debutant's own... well, to begin with, at least. Yes, this was the fate that befell New Zealand tail-ender Ewen Chatfield on his debut against England in 1975. After a brave rearguard, the Kiwi No. 11 was struck on the temple by Peter Lever and sunk to the turf at Auckland as his heart briefly stopped. Step forward England physio Bernard Thomas, who administered mouth to mouth and heart massage before getting him off to hospital, where he regained consciousness an hour later.

1 | Chris Broad
Heroic acts appear to run in the Broad family, because it was the quick thinking of Stu's father, Chris, during the 2009 terror attack in Lahore that saved the life of umpire Ahsan Raza after a rain of bullets laid siege to their mini-bus at the gates of the Gaddafi Stadium. In fact, two things saved Raza's life that day. The first, Broad lying on him to stem the flow of blood. The other? An ICC handbook in Raza's shirt pocket that partially stopped one of the bullets. That's right, in a moment reminiscent of a western, the depth of the ICC bible was a good man's saviour. So take heed and always carry a copy of it with you. One day it may just save your life.

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