Sport

Why a former Test cricket star calls a Women's Big Bash League player his 'guardian angel'

Former Australian Test cricket star Greg Matthews considers Canberra Women's Big Bash League player Sara Hungerford his "guardian angel".

In April 2014, Matthews was on death's door with a serious salmonella infection and was told to contact loved ones as doctors feared he may not survive the night.

Greg Matthews will be forever grateful for Sara Hungerford's intervention.
Greg Matthews will be forever grateful for Sara Hungerford's intervention. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Hungerford, a cardiologist at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital who also plays for the ACT Meteors, helped save his life.

"She's my guardian angel," former Test spinner Matthews said.

ACT Meteors cricketer Sara Hungerford, who is also a doctor, helped save legendary Aussie cricketer Greg Matthews' life.
ACT Meteors cricketer Sara Hungerford, who is also a doctor, helped save legendary Aussie cricketer Greg Matthews' life. Photo: Karleen Minney

"She had a look at my charts and said 'I'm going to take you upstairs'. I thought I'd got the deluxe suite upstairs but she took me to intensive care.

"One or two Aussies a year get this rare strand of salmonella and mine wasn't diagnosed for two weeks.

"My kidneys shut down and I had no idea, I was just in a lot of pain and all over the shop.

"The first thing [one of the other doctors] asked me is if I've got any loved ones, because they didn't think I'd make it through the night."

In an ironic twist Matthews works part time for the Australian Cricketers' Association, who helped Hungerford with university expenses through her six-year medical degree.

"The groovy thing about it was the ACA had supported this young lady through, cricket helped with her studies and she got to help one of us out," Matthews said.

"She can't always be at cricket because saving lives is a bit more important."

For Hungerford, it was the ultimate way of saying thanks as she juggles her two greatest passions.

She is currently in camp with the Sydney Sixers in the Women's Big Bash League, a competition which has captured the public's imagination and strong television ratings.

"Fortunately, I was able to help sort him out and he made a very good recovery, which was good news for everyone," Hungerford said.

"The ACA has been very generous with the education support, it's something which is very beneficial in the women's game at the moment.

"I find it really hard to compare [work to cricket]. You have more control when you're doing an angiogram whereas in cricket the situation you come into changes.

"I still get nervous from both perspectives but the consequences are worse in my line of work, getting out [in cricket] is not too awful in comparison."

Hungerford has only had limited chances to impress with the Sixers, but said the fledgling competition is a major step toward female cricketers one day being fully professional.

"I filled in a keeping role for a few games and I'm hoping the second half of the season a batting opportunity might come and I'll be able to make the most of it," she said.

"We always knew we had a good competition and a good product. There's a lot of stories behind women's cricketers, the things they've had to give up or sacrifice to play the game.

"There's also an incredible amount of ability which hasn't started to get appreciated until games have been broadcast.

"I know in our set up you've got a player like Ellyse Perry who is an international athlete and a remarkable one at that, and a lot of international talent here to play the tournament.

"I'd love to say that [professionalism] is the natural progression of the game and the top 12 or 15 elite players are in that fortunate position.

"They've got to cherish that because they're paving the way for the next generation of cricketers, and I think there will come a time when that's going to happen."

Matthews is a vocal advocate of female cricketers being better compensated financially, and hopes a Memorandum of Understanding agreement will one day be reached.

"It's impossible for me to understand how our girls aren't treated as equals by having an MOU, so they know exactly the lay of the land," Matthews said.

"It's great when girls like Sara get an opportunity like the Women's Big Bash League. We're all very excited about how the public has got behind it.

"I know what they experience, how they balance their careers with their passion.

"There's a new toy in the cot and we're all excited about it."