Bob Woolmer: the first to whistle match-fixing but silenced
18 March, 2007 was indeed a doomsday for the international cricket as it witnessed the mysterious death an embodiment of cricketing techniques and an unsung hero of comity of cricket coaches, Bob Woolmer. At the same day when Pakistan Cricket Team, whom Bob was coaching, fell to Ireland in a knockout of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, Bob was found dead in his bedroom at Pegasus Hotel, Jamaica. Investigations sere launched, conspiracy theories were unleashed and hot debates outpoured about the death of the great coach and cricket administrator but no solid cause could be known why he died with the demise of his team.
In the comity of cricket, Bob was the first one to churn the voice of match-fixing. He dared to speak about the match-fixing scandal of the late South African captain, Hansie Cronje, and demanded a lifetime ban on him in an interview on a BBC program “Panorama” at May 2001. As he had coached the Proteas, he knew a lot about Cronje’s match-fixing practices. Later on, he revealed many significant pieces of information regarding match-fixing and spot-fixing. During the 2007 World Cup, he was said to have some important facts about the nefarious practices that he was about to bring alight but, unfortunately, he lost the life in a tragic way.
Born in a roadside hospital near a cricket ground at Uttar Pradesh, India on 14 May, 1948, Bob inherited cricket legacy from his father Clarence Woolmer who had been a well-recognized cricketer playing for United Provinces. At the age of 15, he came under the umbrella of Colin Page, a coach and captain of Kent Second. Colin trained and prepared him to play county cricket. Starting his playing career as an all-rounder in the English County Cricket, Bob played the English ODI cricket for four years.
At the management level, Bob started as the Sales Representative of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and went on to coach Warwickshire County Cricket Club in 1991. He migrated to South Africa and was appointed as the Proteas Coach in 1994. Here he first noticed the match-fixing practices.
In the aftermath of Pakistan Cricket Team’s trashy performance in the 2003 edition of the World Cup, Bob was called to coach the Men in Green in 2004. With his highly professional skills and a variety of experiences, Bob trained the Pakistani team very well and soon it became one of the top teams of world. During his time, the Cornered Tigers accomplished many remarkable victories.
At last there came an unlucky day of March 18 when he was found dead on the floor of his bedroom in West Indies where his team was playing the World Cup tournament. His death was a serious and complex mystery and still remains so. To describe the causes of his death, many rumours were aired at that time. Some termed it as natural death, some connected it to the knockout of Pakistan, some regarded it as a result of cardiac arrest and most linked it up to the match-fixing information that he possessed and was likely to reveal. The Jamaican Police started investigation but no strong proof was found and thus the chapter was closed.
Bob was indeed a great coach and a professional commentator the world of cricket has ever produced so far. A cool mind, peaceful nature, jolly temperament and professional ethics marked the character of Bob.
Apart from being a talented coach, Bob was also a great scholar and writer. Before his death, he was completed an autobiography and three of his books were in process, one of them on the subject of coaching codes. Bob is credited to have introduced the ‘Reverse Sweep’ shot in cricket.
He has indeed a great man whom the Pakistani cricket lovers will ever remember and on the eve of his fourth anniversary, Pakistan has decided to name the National Cricket Stadium Karachi after him. God bless you the ‘pundit of cricket’, Bob Woolmer.