It’s not a very common phenomenon where a country observes a day in memory of a person of another nation. And if that person happens to be a sportsperson it should stand out to be a rare occasion.

However, such a thing is happening every year in Bengal, a state on the eastern part of India. The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), the body that runs the state cricket and is also a member of the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI), the parent body of India, is observing their foundation day on February 3 each year as Sir Frank Worrell Day in memory of the late great West Indies cricketer.

However, to understand the importance of the day, we have to go back into history.

It all began in March 1962 when the Indian team was touring the West Indies. After two Test matches, the visitors were playing a colony game in Barbados on March 17.

India skipper Nari Contractor was at the crease while fierce Barbados fast bowler Charlie Griffith was firing at all cylinders. Griffith bowled two consecutive deliveries above shoulder height of Contractor. In those days there used to be no sightscreen at the pavilion end from where Griffith was charging in and the wicket was in line with the dressing rooms.

Legendary Sir Frank Worrell

As Griffith started to run in for his fourth delivery of the over, somebody suddenly opened a window in the pavilion which distracted Contractor. It was another short ball and Contractor turned his back to the ball which hit him on the back of his head. Contractor sunk to his knees, still clutching the bat. But he was in no position to stand up. He was helped by two team members off the ground as he was bleeding from his nose and ear then. The batsman was rushed to a hospital where the doctors describe it as “concussion of the brain” which in those days was 99 per cent fatal.

The nearest neuro-surgeon then in the West Indies was in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and there was no flight until the next morning. So a doctor was flown in from the USA in short notice who performed an emergency surgery to reduce the clot on his brain. The operation needed plenty of blood and Sir Frank Worrell was the first person to step forward to donate blood. His gesture encouraged others too to come forward. Indian cricketers Chandu Borde, Polly Umrigar and journalist K.N. Prabhu also donated blood as Contractor fought with death. The left-handed batsman remained unconscious for the next six days.

He survived the crisis but could never play the game again in his life. It was because of Sir Frank Worrell, who visited Contractor regularly in the hospital over the next few days, that he got a new life.

The CAB while celebrating its golden jubilee year in 1981, decided to pay homage to this great gesture of a great human being. Since then they have been organising blood donation camp on its foundation day which is now better known as Sir Frank Worrell Day, to immortalise the contribution of the West Indian, who died prematurely in 1967 as result of leukaemia.

Nari Contractor himself along with his wife Dolly came from Mumbai to Kolkata to donate blood on that day in 1981.

On that occasion Contractor said: “This is the best way of remembering and paying homage to the great man – Frank Worrell.”

The former India captain was later invited to the West Indies to witness the formation of blood banks named after Sir Frank Worrell on his 42nd death anniversary.

Every year some thousands of people donate blood in the CAB throughout the day. The CAB organises similar camps in the various districts of Bengal also on the same day, The CAB president unfolds the association flag and in his brief speech mentions about Sir Frank Worrell’s great gesture on the sporting field.

Every year each donor was handed over a certificate signed by some cricketing greats. This year the certificate was signed by none other than the great Australian spinner Richie Benaud. Previously, certificates were signed by Sir Ali Bacher of South Africa, Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka etc.

Worrell altogether played 51 Tests scoring 3,860 runs at an average 49.49. He will always be remembered as the first black cricket captain of West Indies. People will never forget his late cut and the runs that he had scored for his country.

But above all Sir Frank Worrell will remain in the memory of everybody as an ambassador of true sportsman spirit.