MUMBAI - More than five decades after his near-fatal head injury in the Caribbean, former India captain Nari Contractor could not believe Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes lost his life despite wearing a helmet.
The left-handed Contractor was stuck on the skull by a Charlie Griffith bouncer in a practice match against Barbados during India's tour of the West Indies in 1962.
The injury during the pre-helmet era left him unconscious for days and he miraculously survived after multiple operations and blood transfusions.
But he could never represent India again.
"This is so unfortunate. I never thought something like this could happen," Contractor, now 80, told Reuters on Thursday.
"With the advent of helmets, I never imagined a batsman could be injured so seriously."
Many found the nature of Hughes' injury similar and Contractor, who played 31 tests for India, said his phone had not stopped ringing over the last couple of days.
Hughes was struck on the neck by a short-pitched delivery when batting in a domestic match on Tuesday, with the force of the blow piercing his veterbral artery and causing blood to gush into his brain. He died in hospital on Thursday aged 25.
Contractor felt the death would be an even heavier blow for Hughes' family.
"These days I get to hear about a lot of cuts and bruises but batsmen often take bouncers on their helmet," he said by phone. "The right equipment should be able to save cricketers from such incidents."
British sports firm Masuri Group Ltd, which made the 'Original Test' helmet worn by Hughes, said its new 'Vision Series' model released about a year ago offered more protection.
Contractor said authorities must ensure that cricketers wear the right protective gear at all levels of the sport.
"We did not have helmets in our time. But now that it is available, it should be compulsory for everyone to use it," he added.