For all cricket enthusiasts, Ewen Chatfield will be remembered for two things. He was Richard Hadlee’s partner in crime during New Zealand’s glory years. While Hadlee ran through oppositions with his swing and pace, Chatfield bowled economically and built pressure. In 43 Tests, he picked up 123 wickets at an economy rate of 2.29. Second, on his Test debut against England in Auckland 1975, he almost died after being struck on the temple by a bouncer from Peter Lever. His heart stopped and he swallowed his tongue and only mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage by Bernard Thomas, England's physiotherapist, saved his life. He was rushed to hospital and regained consciousness.
Chatfield retired from competitive cricket in 1989 during the series against Pakistan. However, not many people know that he continued to play cricket. He played cricket for a club which gave him his identity. He played for the club for 51 years. After debuting at the age of 17, Chatfield finally retired from all forms of cricket when he played a game for his Wellington club Naenae Old Boys.
Chatfield, who had played against Australia over 60s in a match recently, told stuff.co.nz about his retirement. “It might seem silly but I have standards, even at 68, and if I can't play to those standards I thought it is time to flag it,” Chatfield said.
However, in recent years, Chatfield has been spotted driving a corporate taxi, picking up people from the airport and back. “I make a decent living out of it. To make more money you have to drive long hours and that can be hard. Some do. Some others kind of guess who I am but are reluctant to ask,” Chatfield told The Hindu newspaper some years ago.
Chatfield joins a vintage list of athletes who have continued to play cricket until an old age. England’s Wilfred Rhodes played international cricket until he was 52 years of age against West Indies in Kingston in 1930. CK Nayudu, India’s premier player, played until the age of 69 when he turned up for Maharashtra Governor's XI against a Maharashtra Chief Minister's XI in a charity match in 1963. At age 75, Raja Maharaj Singh made his first-class debut for Bombay Governor’s XI against a Commonwealth XI in 1950.
Chatfield has had several memorable moments in his career. He hit 21* batting at No.10 and shared a 60-run stand with Jeremy Coney to give New Zealand a tense two-wicket win against Pakistan in Dunedin in 1985. His best performances with the ball came against the mighty West Indies, taking 23 wickets including his only 10-wicket haul in Tests. He took 34 wickets in 12 Tests against England, including 13 wickets in three Tests in 1988.