March 26, 2007

The Tragic Loss Of Bob Woolmer and The World Cup 2007 (part 1)


And I’m back…it’s been a long time, but no time like the present, eh? Bla blah. Anyway, the gap has been big but with exams, assignments, interviews and crucial career decisions on the horizon, what better time to update what may be called the beating heart of Warwick? (oh, give it up, u Boar people…)

But first let us begin with the most relevant and important (the Middle East can wait): the most spectacular event in the cricketing world. I refer, of course, to Dwayne Leverock defying physics, gravity and belief to catch AR Uthappa in mid air. More on Dwayne later.

History lessons

World Cup ’75 gave us Gavaskar’s tremendous 5 hour stay at the crease (amassing 36 not out, supposedly a stern response to England’s 334). Presumably somebody forgot to tell the Indians the new format of the game. Then WC ’83 gave us Kapil Dev’s phenomenal 175 n.o. that remains only in memories and pages because BBC cameramen were on strike that day. Cricinfo tells us:

[In the West Indies v Australia 1975 final] Lillee slapped a Van Holder no-ball straight to Fredericks at extra cover. The crowd missed the call and rushed on, thinking the match was over. Fredericks tried another run-out, only to see the ball disappear into the horde. “Keep running,” shouted Lillee to his mate. When order was restored, umpires Dickie Bird and Tom Spencer declared they could have two runs. “Pig’s arse,” cried Thommo. “We’ve been running up and down here all afternoon!” So they gave them three.

World Cup 2007, however, is a serious contender for the most groundbreaking world cup in cricket. Having been overshadowed by tragedy, the quality of cricket and events on the field will simply not compare. In fact, tragically, even the tragedy is no more – now it’s a mystery and a pot of conspiracy theory. We shall return to the cricket later…


And cricket takes a back seat…

The murder of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer (left, in the ‘70s) has crossed the sport pages (even cricket, which occupies the back page from the news side AND the sports side in this country) and entered the front page even in non-cricket-interested nations (presumably under “the crazy world of cricket”). By all accounts, it is clear that Woolmer was a uniquely disciplined and honest man, if not a brilliant coach. His friendliness to Pakistanis and the team was countered by a certain lack of control over the team – characterised by drug scandals and the (former) Captain’s all-pervasive presence. Nonetheless, despite these scandals, the stress on youth and professionalism placed on the team by Woolmer, despite mixed success, is a beacon to coaches everywhere. As to the murder itself, a strong case may be made for his forthcoming book being the fuse for this fire – supposedly it contained sensitive information on many cricketing figures. This has since been refuted by Woolmer’s close friends.

As for the perpetrators, there seem to be broadly 4 theories: unknown criminal, Pakistani player(s), bookmakers or fans. The player theory can be safely eliminated, as no Pakistani player would risk everything to protect professional secrets. Clearly, the bookie angle is very strong, given the subcontinent’s long running problems. A big stumbling block is: why right after the game? The perp had time to go and why not do it elsewhere where it would garner less attention?

This has the appalling hallmark of a routine inner city killing – the complete lack of method (blood spattered walls), the timing and lack of motive elsewhere. Meanwhile, the sport and Pakistani squad are left in shock as to how the relatively happy world of sport could be so openly ripped apart. Clearly security will have to be tightened; this is the only blameworthy element so far. That nobody heard or saw anything is not reason enough, security can be all-encompassing. There are suggestions of a Bob Woolmer academy in Pakistan, which can only be a good thing, given the current state of Pakistani cricket. Perhaps some of ol’ Bob’s finer instincts can be carried on.

No doubt the killers will be found and locked up till they die and ugly as it is, we are reminded that it’s just a game, at any level. And yet the World Cup will go on.

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