‘With foot,no-balls also gone for good’

How former Kiwi fastman Heath Davis picked up the pieces and moved on after accident

Written by Aditya Iyer | Brisbane | Published: February 23, 2012 2:44:42 am

Stacked in a neat pile,four sets of oddly coloured New Zealand cricket jerseys sit on the top shelf of a wardrobe. Next to the old uniforms in his Brisbane home,a stained headband rests above a shelf bursting with other memorabilia from his playing days — all similarly unwashed of memories. Torn scorecards,fading photos,chipped bails,worn-out caps,broken stumps and parched leather balls constantly help remind Heath Davis that he was once an international cricketer. A Kiwi one at that.

The former New Zealand fast bowler,who made his debut in 1994,has long moved on from his old life following a Trans-Tasman migration to Queensland in 2004. The cricket was going nowhere,he says,and life was calling. Still,perhaps in an attempt to remember those playing days with the lens of fondness,Davis has preserved every last piece of the jigsaw from a bygone era. Every piece but one — his landing foot.

“I didn’t want to remember all the no-balls that I bowled through my career. So I decided to do something permanent about it,” the 40-year-old Davis says,bursting into a full-body laughter. In just one sentence,he sums up everything that has gone wrong with him,on and off the field. But with the rarest of gifts — the ability to laugh back at every hardship that life has thrown at him. And they have been pretty damn hard.

Working in an aluminium packing warehouse in suburban Brisbane,Davis met with a tragic accident in March 2009 while controlling an industrial crane. “The forklift slid out as I cornered,and my left foot happened to be on the edge. While pressing the brakes,my foot jammed between the bollard and the fork. They had to amputate this part of my foot,” he recalls,while simultaneously pointing to the left leg abruptly truncated after the heel.

Life after the accident

But within six weeks of the accident,Davis had miraculously gotten rid of the crutches. “I had a stomach to feed,” he says. And in five months,he was back to driving the crane for the same company. “The doctors gave me a plastic prosthetic with velcro strappings. Like a false foot. I used to wear that to work,” explains Davis. “Now I’ve got boots made with steel shanks through them. It gets a bit heavy,and very cumbersome. Nevertheless,it helped me get back on my,well,foot.”

While he was still standing,the accident ensured that Davis was back to square one as far as his career was concerned. The lack of exercise saw him gain a fair amount of weight,while the minimal compensation provoked him to move on to a different career option. Although there were plenty of ‘clock-on,clock-off jobs’,like he calls them,a return to cricket was closest to his mind. He wanted to return to what he had once left unfinished.

Since his first international match in 1994 to his professional retirement in 2004,Davis suffered through the most basic of disabilities – that of bowling no-balls. It meant he was always struggling to find his rhythm. As a result,the boy from Lower Hutt made fleeting few appearances on the international stage – a total of five Tests and 11 ODIs in a decade-long career.

“I never worked hard enough,” he says matter-of-factly. “The critics went on analysing my no-balls and wondered why I was prone to it. It’s simple. Had I trained more diligently and put a real plan together,it would have sorted itself out. But never got down to it.” The truth,according to Davis,is easier to come up with than excuses.

Consider this. On a day when he was struggling with stress fractures and a heel problem in March 1997,Davis ran through half the Sri Lankan side in Hamilton to claim his only five-for in Tests. A couple of weeks later,he destroyed Arjuna Ranatunga’s men once again — this time for his best ODI bowling figures of 4/35.

“I don’t think the Lankans were at their best,to be honest,” he says with modesty. “And team work pays off for someone in every game. It was me on those occasions.”

The dismissal that wasn’t

His last moment under the sun,literally,came within an overwhelming trough. It was against the Indians in Bangalore during the Independence Cup in 1997. Davis struck Sachin Tendulkar on his pads in his third over,and umpire Javed Akhtar gave it not out. Tendulkar went on to make 117,Davis never played for New Zealand again. “I had him. Even today,as I watch the replays,it is evident that the skidding ball is crashing into the stumps.”

After Akhtar denied him,Davis sprayed it around at the Chinnaswamy Stadium,conceding 10 extras in his coda of 0/54 in five overs. “That’s alright. You can sit and moan and mope. You’ve got to move on with it,” he says. So,with a similar shrug of his shoulders,Davis dusted off the memories of his horrors and returned to the cricket field in 2010. This time as coach of the John Paul College second XI.

“The kids are fun to teach. Plus,I can now usher up a four pace run-up,” he says. “And with this leg,it takes a real effort to cross that popping crease. The no-balls have stopped for good.”

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