Shane Getkate was “quite calm” when he scored the winning runs for Ireland on his ODI debut, against Zimbabwe on July 1. That calmness doesn’t come as a surprise: the 27-year-old allrounder spent most of his teenage years trying to calm himself down whenever he felt his heart beating faster than normal.
Getkate was born with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition that can lead to periods of rapid heart rate. Eight years ago, in 2011, when Getkate was playing a two-day Under-19 game for Warwickshire against a Cheshire Development Squad in Solihull, he felt his heartbeat increasing after he completed his bowling spell.
“I had that problem since I was born,” Getkate told ESPNcricinfo. “But it was never much of an issue. Whenever my heart got racing, I would come off the field and put an ice pack on my neck to slow my heart rate down.”
The only difference was that day it didn’t work.
“It was a hot day in Birmingham. I bowled some five-six overs and came off the field. Sat next to my coach with an ice pack on my neck, and the next minute I collapsed.
“It happened on Tuesday, and I woke up two days later, on Thursday. I remember coming off not feeling great but I don’t really have any memory of what happened after that. [When I regained consciousness] my parents were there and they told me what had happened.”
Getkate had suffered a heart attack. After he collapsed, a player’s mother performed CPR before the paramedics used defibrillators to give him an electric shock. Soon, an air ambulance was at the ground to take him to the nearest hospital.
He spent two weeks in that hospital, before doctors told him he would struggle to play cricket again.
“That was obviously very hard to take. So I went to another hospital and they performed the surgery. There was an extra pathway in my heart that was making it go very fast. They were able to rectify that problem and they burnt the pathway away. And I was back playing cricket within two weeks.
“The surgery helped massively, it took away the problem. But it did take a couple of years to get the confidence back, to just trust my body and to trust it won’t happen again. I had a couple of check-ups for probably about one or two years after it happened, up until I was maybe 20-21. Since then, touch wood, I haven’t had any issues.”
Born to a South African father and an Irish mother, Getkate spent the first 11 years of his life in Durban, where he grew up watching Shaun Pollock. Later when Getkate’s family moved to Ireland, players like John Mooney, Nigel Jones and Trent Johnston inspired him to take up the game. Watching Ireland beat Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and England in the 2011 World Cup only pushed the dream to play for the side further.
“I look back to that day eight years ago, and I remember the support and how lucky I am to be alive, so there is definitely more to life than cricket.”
During his age-group days, Getkate was “a fast bowler who didn’t really bat”. But two stress fractures – at the ages of 16 and 22 – resulted in the loss of pace. During that time, Getkate worked on his batting and transformed himself into a big-hitter who bowled military medium.
Getkate’s hard work and perseverance finally paid off and he made his T20I debut against Oman in February. And it was Paul Stirling, once his age-group teammate, who presented him his T20I cap.
“That was a great feeling,” Getkate says, of receiving the cap from his old friend. “I have played with Paul since I was 11. He used to open the batting for Under-13s [when we played together] and this time he was the captain.”
On his ODI debut, Getkate took two wickets and scored an unbeaten 16 to see Ireland home. When asked if his heart was racing after he scored the winning runs, Getkate says: “I was actually quite calm at the time. It helped that I got a couple of wickets in the first innings and when it was my turn to bat, I was less nervous. Maybe if it was the other way round, I would have been a bit more nervous batting.”
He picked up two wickets each in the next two ODIs as Ireland swept the series against Zimbabwe 3-0, and he is also part of the T20 squad for the ongoing series. But Getkate’s ultimate goal remains representing Ireland in Test cricket.
“Yeah, that is a dream, playing Test cricket, to top it all off,” Getkate says. “That’s something I am working towards, but at the same time trying to take one day at a time and keep doing well in the first-class structure with Northern Knights.”
Over the years, Getkate has faced enough setbacks, and he is aware there might be more in future, too.
“[I am] just trying to be as grateful as I can. Obviously, you can get really frustrated when you are not doing too well for Ireland or whoever you are playing for. But through those tough times, you can put things into perspective really. I look back to that day eight years ago, and I remember the support and how lucky I am to be alive, so there is definitely more to life than cricket.”