Around 4.15 pm, on Thursday, this Reporter received a call from Khyati Martin’s mobile. One feared that her husband, former India batsman Jacob, had suffered another relapse at the Sterling Hospital in Vadodara.
Thankfully, it was anything but that.
The caller, as it turned out, was Jacob himself and his first words were: “I’ve just come home... While I’d telephoned Sanjaybhai (Sanjay Patel) shortly before being discharged, the first from home is to you.”
Patel is a former secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Baroda Cricket Association. He took the lead to bolster the Martin family’s finances after Jacob’s post-accident hospitalisation on December 28.
Excerpts from The Telegraph’s interaction with Jacob, who continues on regulated oxygen support even at home...
Q When did you get to know you’d be discharged on Thursday afternoon?
A Late on Wednesday... The infection in the left lung hasn’t gone away, but the doctors felt my recovery at home would be around 20 per cent quicker. Besides, mentally, it had become extremely draining. I’d been in hospital for almost six weeks, after all.
Q Thoughts on actually getting home (in the Ghotri area)...
A One of relief... I’m thankful to God and to those who prayed for my recovery. This, indeed, is a second life for me... It’s difficult to put into words the joy I feel on being able to hug my daughters (Udania, Maegan) and to be back in a familiar environment.
Q What kept you going, particularly during the 30 days or so that you spent in the Critical Care Unit (CCU)?
A I was determined to not give up and to keep fighting till, if it came to it, I could no longer do so. I was informed by my wife that my first India captain, Dada Sourav Ganguly, had asked her to convey a very specific get-well message on his behalf. It was: ‘Your job is not to lie on a hospital bed, but to be on your feet and actively engaged in cricket.’ Believe me, Dada’s message meant the world to me and despite being in so much discomfort — ventilator and so on — it only added to my own resolve to keep fighting... For the sake of my daughters and my wife, who would constantly be on vigil in the CCU. So, to Dada, goes a big thank you from my family and I... I’m grateful to K.L. Rahul too, who extended such a welcome helping hand and to the Chennai Super Kings for transferring Rs 3 lakh without asking any questions whatsoever.
Q A host of other India cricketers, past and present, and even some very young cricketers who have never met you spontaneously came forward to help...
A I’ll stay indebted to them and I must thank your newspaper for being the first to take up my cause and drawing the world’s attention to the crisis I’d put my family through after meeting with the two-wheeler accident late on December 27. As you are aware, I’d gone to get ice-cream for my daughters... Call it destiny or an accident, my wife’s moped, which I was driving for the first time, crashed into an electricity pole... Accidents can happen at any time, but the way the fraternity came forward makes me feel rather special. I’ve truly been very blessed.
Q Aren’t you disappointed that the Board released only Rs 5 lakh even when you were in the CCU and the hospital’s bill kept mounting?
A Of course. This time it has been Jacob Martin who met with an accident and suffered grievous injuries (damaged lungs, liver and broken ribs, for example)... I hope not, but it could be some other former India cricketer tomorrow or the day after... What then? I’d appeal to the Board to ensure life-long medical insurance for all who have played for India or even at the first-class level. Very few get to wear the national colours, but many do finish as first-class cricketers. They, too, need to be looked after... Please don’t see this as Jacob Martin’s case. The larger picture, which would ideally cover all who play at the first-class level, needs to be looked at.
Q Given the enormous cost of treatment at a private facility, how much did you have to pay the hospital?
A Around Rs 25 lakh. Going forward, there will be recurring expenses as well — fees of doctors who will come home, high-cost medicines and regular physiotherapy... I just hope my recovery at home is faster than the 20 per cent, as anticipated by the doctors.
Q Are you, by the way, the religious type?
A Yes... I pray at a Roman Catholic church.
Q Finally, your message to those who may have a massive stroke of misfortune and end up facing a major crisis, possibly on the wrong side of 40?
A (Emotionally) Never give up... Believe in God, for if you have done no wrong, the one up there will ensure justice... Also, if you are a cricketer, have faith in the fraternity... There will be a Dada or a Rahul or somebody else... Could even be Match Referees and umpires on the Board’s panel for domestic matches.
Postscript: Patel, who leaves for New York in the early hours of Friday, said: “Let me return in 10-12 days as, by then, the picture will be clearer... I haven’t yet approached some of the India cricketers (past and present) who’ve committed to help Jacob... The expected expenses need to be worked out first.”