Cricket’s day of tragedy

Vaibhav Arora

Although the introduction of safety gear has dramatically reduced the number of injuries to players, there is no doubt that cricket still remains a dangerous game. While unfortunate incidents were common in days prior to the introduction of the helmet, injuries still happen, though, rarely on a cricket field.

While protective equipment such as a helmet ensures relative safety to the batsmen and the close-in fielders, some still argue that wearing a helmet reduces reaction time and may adversely affect the performance of a player. However, deciding against wearing a helmet has often proved to be dangerous and even fatal in some cases. One such tragic incident that comes to mind of a cricketer losing his life while playing a game of cricket happened in 1998 when former Indian cricketer Raman Lamba got hit so badly that he eventually succumbed to his injuries a couple of days later.

Lamba was a stylish batsman, who began his international career in 1986 in great aplomb, smashing a hundred and a couple of fifties against the touring Australians. However, a string of failures, subsequently, meant that his international career was limited to just 32 ODIs and 4 Tests.

The flamboyant batsman, who was blessed with superb reflexes and was never short of boldness, played a lot of his cricket in Ireland and also went on to marry an Irish girl.

Besides, he also played club cricket in Bangladesh and scored tons of runs there. Lamba had a major hand in promoting cricket in that country, which during the days was still in the process of putting forward its claim for a fulltime ICC Test membership.

The tragic incident occurred on 20th February, 1998 in a game between Mohammedan Sporting and Abahani Krira Chakra played at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka.

Khaled Mashud, who was captain of Abahani Krira Chakra, decided to bring left-arm spinner Saifullah Khan into the attack. The field was changed after three balls and Lamba, who was fielding in the deep until then, was brought forward to short-leg. Despite being given a choice to do so, he declined to wear a helmet, thinking that it was just three balls that he had to negotiate.

The fourth delivery of the over from Khan was pulled by the batsman, Mehrab Hossain with such might that it bounced back a long way after hitting Lamba straight on the forehead and was caught by the wicketkeeper. The fielders started to celebrate the dismissal even as Lamba lay on the ground.

Even though he was badly shaken-up from the impact, Lamba still had the courage to get up and walk back to the pavilion without help, where he was given assistance by the team physio. A few minutes later, he had to be rushed to a nearby hospital after complaining of uneasiness and lost consciousness even before getting there.

After suffering convulsions, doctors decided to perform a surgery and removed a blood clot from his brain. Although a specialist was flown to Dhaka from Delhi, doctors had by the time given up any hopes of recovery.

A day later, his life support system was turned off, bringing a promising cricket career to an abrupt end. Lamba, who was just 38, was survived by his wife and two children, a five-year old son and three-year old daughter.

Mehrab Hossain, whose pull-shot had resulted in the catastrophe, was so upset that he even gave up the game for a while before returning and going on to represent his country.

Lamba’s death gave a lesson to all the budding cricketers and was a wake-up call for the authorities to try and make the game safer.