When a Len Pascoe Bouncer Got Sandeep Patil Hospitalised
When I got selected to tour Australia in late 1980, my only conversation with the then captain Sunil Gavaskar was on whether I would be able to face these fast bowlers. I wanted to know if I would be able to see the ball and I felt it was right to ask Sunil because he had successfully faced them and scored centuries.
Sunil’s simple advice to me was if you keep your eyes open you will be able to handle them.
During the first test at Sydney, I had to face the music of Dennis Lillee, Rodney Hogg and Len Pascoe. All three were super quicks and I was again facing them without a helmet.
We batted first and lost quick wickets and I remember I came out to bat at four down and was on 65 at the stroke of tea when the last ball, a bouncer off Rodney Hogg hit me on the neck and I fell down. As I entered the dressing room for the tea, there was a surprise visitor in our dressing room – Sir Garfield Sobers! The first comment I heard from him was, ‘well done boy keep it up’.
That last ball before tea is still fresh in my mind. All my team members told me to wear a helmet. I asked Sunil what to do and again his advice was simple – if you believe in yourself, don’t listen to what others are saying. But the fact also was that a helmet was not available so I entered the field again without one and Len Pascoe was the bowler again.
A player makes the biggest mistake if he is in two minds. All the talk during the break had confused me. Out in the middle, the first ball was again a bouncer and I was caught again in two minds – whether to stay away or to duck.
I got trapped and was hit on my left ear and I collapsed. I saw Greg Chappell and Rodney Hogg coming to assist me and after a few minutes I also saw assistant manager Bapu Nadkarni and doctor Senthil trying to help me.
He did not stop there but helped me up and got me walking back to the dressing room even when the thumb rule when a player gets a head injury, as we all know, is that they should be taken off on a stretcher and not be allowed to walk.
I still have a picture of Bapu Nadkarni and Yograj Singh taking me to the dressing room and after a few steps I again collapsed. I also remember coming to my senses when doctors asked me to walk on the steel plates and as they found me wobbly they sedated me again.
The next morning when I woke up in my hospital room, the first face I saw was of Len Pascoe and next to him were Sunil Gavaskar, our manager Durrani and Bapu Nadkarni. I got the shock of my life. The same bowler who had hit me was there to see whether I was ok. It was a very sweet gesture from him.
Another shock came when I got a call from Sydney travel lounge where I was nursing my injury, Sunil called me to say that I was required in the dressing room and I will be batting. Thank god I did not “shit” in my pants, perhaps it was the greatest decision made by Sunil.
I managed to take the field for the second innings when most of the cricket pundits had doubts whether I would be able to. But thanks to my father and Sunil, I returned and also got a rousing welcome when I entered to bat again.
The bowler was Dennis Lillee, and yes, the first ball was a bouncer again. I swung my bat, the ball got an edge but was dropped by Doug Walters and we got 4 runs. The applause I got I can never forget.
Second ball was again a bouncer but this time I got caught by Wood at forward short leg. Inside my head, I knew I had surrendered.
As I was walking back, I knew that I had failed but Sunil Gavaskar came to receive me at the boundary line and his words were, “Sandeep well done you faced them”.
I had a week’s time before the second test during which I wore a helmet and was trying to get used to it. It was the the Adelaide test and it was here that I decided that attack is the best defence in Australia. Every time Lillee, Hogg and Poscoe bounced, I hooked and scored. I made 174 in that match.
So my advice to this team travelling to Australia that has so much talent is to fight fire with fire. These guys are genius. If I could survive and score runs, today’s Indian batters have skill and talent to massacre them.
Wishing Indian team all the very best.