Sir Richard Hadlee has had a distinguished career for New Zealand spanning 86 Tests and 431 wickets. In one of those, way back in November 1985, the 64-year-old ran through arch-rival Australia’s batting line-up ending with nine wickets for 52 runs. Yet, the Black Caps legend considers his fight against Wolff–Parkinson–White Syndrome, a disorder which caused his heart to beat irregularly, as his greatest Test match.
While he discovered that he had the condition only six months after calling time on his career, he said he felt some effects during his playing days.
“I can’t say it affected me during my playing career. I didn’t know I had the problem when I was playing. It resulted in irregular heartbeat, sometimes when you put your body under stress, in pressure situations, the heartbeat rhythm would get a lot quicker. And when you would sit down and relax, it would get back to normal.
“Six months after my retirement, it just went into overdrive for no reason. Just out of the blue. It wouldn’t regulate, it went faster and faster. So I was in a very vulnerable and dangerous state,” Hadlee recounted.
He added that he needed open heart surgery to survive and still takes medication to keep his blood thin and his heart beat regular. The ordeal, he says, taught him a valuable life lesson.
“My life’s been a pretty good one to say the least. But all of a sudden you get hit by a medical condition that is not in your control, my greatest Test match was fighting for my life. You learn a lot of about life. You got to respect it, you got to enjoy it and not waste it or abuse it. You see very sick kids, terminally ill people, you go into old-age pension homes and see a lot of people lying around there waiting for the inevitable, just makes you think: ‘Get out there and enjoy it and make the most of it.’ This is why I’m involved with Alex’s project cause I’ve had a lot out of life, particularly cricket and there’s a chance to give back on a voluntary basis,” he added.