Batty's sea rescue shakes up England

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The Independent Online

Gareth Batty has more to thank Michael Vaughan for this morning than his place in England's final XI for the first Test against Sri Lanka. Without the quick thinking of England's captain, the Worcester- shire all-rounder could have suffered serious injury or worse after being swept on to rocks while swimming in the sea at the team hotel.

Batty, who visited the beach with Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard to partake in some body surfing after practice on Sunday, escaped with only cuts and grazes but it was clear that the experience had shocked the 26 year-old spinner.

"There was a period when I feared the worst," Batty said, reliving the moment. "The rocks I was getting washed up against were hellish sharp. Vaughany could tell I was struggling and was getting pretty animated on the rocks. It was his waving that caught the attention of the lifeguards.

"We could see there were quite a few rocks about before we went in the sea so we spoke to this lifeguard who said it would be OK if we stuck down this channel. We caught a couple of waves and then went out for our third or fourth wave when the current suddenly took us out 20 or 30 feet. The next thing we knew we were getting whacked into the rocks."

Hoggard, who is the strongest swimmer of the three, managed to get away and caught the next wave on to the beach, while Vaughan clambered on to the rocks between waves. Realising the seriousness of his colleague's predicament, Vaughan immediately started waving to six or seven lifeguards on duty, who rushed out and rescued Batty.

"I know that when you get caught in a rip you are supposed to relax and let it take you where it wants," Batty said. "But it's not quite as easy as that when there are a lot of sharp rocks about. They caught me in a few places and I have a few nicks on my hands, arms and legs.

"I was knocked against the rocks but then as I got up, another wave came and dragged me around it and that was the scary bit. As the only one to be pulled out of the sea I feel like the sissy in the group. It shook me up at the time but it hasn't affected my preparation for the Test match - everything's cool.

Batty is not the first England player to have a narrow escape or suffer injury while fooling around in the sea on tour. Fred Titmus lost four toes in Barbados on England's 1967-68 tour of the West Indies when his foot got caught up in the propeller of a speed boat. Nasser Hussain was hit by a jet-ski on England's 1993-94 tour of the Caribbean, and Darren Gough had to be fished out of the Pacific Ocean a year later when he was dragged out to sea while attempting to surf in Newcastle, Australia.

The west coast of Sri Lanka is notorious for its currents and only last week a tourist drowned while swimming at Hikkaduwa, 10 miles north of the team hotel. "We always tell Europeans it is okay to swim but always near the shore," said Wellage Gamini, one of the lifeguards who pulled Batty out of the water. "The problem was that he went out too near the rocks where the tides are the strongest.

"We saw he was in trouble and swam out to him. We helped him on to the rocks. I think he was a bit shaken and tired. You could tell he was a good swimmer but it is very difficult for anyone who goes out too far."

Following this incident people will ask why England cricketers are doing such things two days before an important Test match. However, players cannot be expected to sit in their hotel rooms whenever they are not playing or training. It would drive them crazy and they must be given the freedom to relax and have some fun, even if James Anderson injured himself doing just this.

When the Lancashire fast bowler twisted his ankle playing squash a fortnight ago it looked like his tour would be over but the 21-year-old has recovered enough for the selectors to allow him to stay in Sri Lanka.

"We have looked at all the different scenarios and feel that keeping Jimmy here is the best," Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, said. "He has made progress and at this time he has a 50/50-60/40 chance of playing in the second Test, a 100 per cent chance of being ready for the last Test. Having played some cricket in the last month he will be in a better position than someone we brought out here from England."