Lived and died for Cricket

Written by Muhammad Asim on March 20th, 2007

Obituary Bob Woolmer: 1948-2007

When one would sit down to write the history of Pakistan cricket, the events since last August would perhaps be mentioned as the (beginning of) Dark Ages of national cricket. It is needless to remind what has happened over the last eight months but the recent World Cup debacle, the sad demise of Bob Woolmer and Inzi’s good-bye to ODI cricket, crowns Pakistan’s most shambolic season in its history. What to follow looks ominous at the moment. Had Shakespeare been alive today he would have preferred the tragedy of Pakistan Cricket as a stronger impetus to write on than any of his other tragedies. He would have found all his heroes like Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello or even villain like Iago in the same plot. It would have been a masterpiece, a literary classic and a best-seller.

Bob Woolmer was a man who lived and died for cricket. Such has been the case with Pakistan cricket that it consumed a strong man like Woolmer. I always feel that leading and coaching Pakistan is one of the worst jobs in the cricketing world. It can bring the best or worst out of you. Each time the team loses every one gets after them. Of course, sometimes the captain and the coach deserve to be blamed but not all the time.

Woolmer was a man with a vision and passion to try new things in cricket. It was Bob who told the cricketing world how to make better use of technology to evaluate the opposition’s strong and weak points. When he joined Pakistan in 2004, after turning down an offer to coach Sri Lanka the previous year, there was a question mark over whether Pakistan would allow him to succeed. As time told it was unfortunate for him to coach and work with a long list of idiots associated with Pakistan cricket and an inapt side for which he worked so hard to prosper. He brought some results but it is stupidity to judge him on the basis of the (statistical) performance of Pakistan team. Still during his stay as a coach, Pakistan won 37 out of 69 ODIs and ten of the 28 Tests.

Those who understand cricket know that one can take the horse to a well but one cannot make him drink. The coach can only tell the player to do this and avoid this but if the player is not bothered then why one puts the coach at fault? One example, which I would like to quote, is our players’ running between the wickets. I never saw Younis Khan, running so straight on a cricket pitch as he is shown leaping in 90 degrees in the Pepsi add. When they are on the field they dance off the pitch and run in diagonally or in zigzag only to give the fielders a chance to shy at the stumps. The simple point is that Pakistani batsmen really don’t care.

They say, being a hero is the shortest lived profession in the world. When Bob was with South Africa he held that position for five years between 1994 and 1999. He coached South Africa to 21 victories out of 44 Tests, winning ten of the 15 series they played. During the same period, in one-day arena, South Africa won 83 of the 111 matches and emerged as one of the leading sides at the international front.

The price to be a Pakistani supporter, especially in recent times, has been very high. Whether or not one takes it to his heart or not, he would get through severe mental stress, embarrassment and disgrace mixed with brief (or sometimes long, but very rare) episodes of joy, triumph and euphoria. Even if one has a sound health there is no guarantee that he would not have a cardiac arrest or brain hemorrhage at any point in time.

Throughout the history, Pakistan team has been more or less the same. They are the greatest one day and can shrink from a team of your neighborhood the next. Their biggest consistency is their inconsistency. They give so much variety in pain and in joy that one always keeps them guessing. They can make a meal of the best of sides on their day and on their worst, can make Ireland look like World XI.

Defeats are nothing new to us and we are used to regular setbacks. We know victory and defeat are part and parcel of the game but why must we grab the larger share? But we are relieved when we try to live and believe in the adage that this Pakistan team is the most unpredictable side in the world so it would keep happening to us perpetually. This is only a game and blah blah blah! We enjoy saying the same and sometimes it gives us a soothing effect. So why worry? Pakistan has already won three World Cups in cricket; one under Imran Khan and two by our blind cricket team.

When we were thrashed out of the World Cup four years ago, people responded much like the same. All those concerned in the PCB claimed that they would make every effort in order to build a strong team under a new captain for the next World Cup in 2007. But what has happened? We produced good for nothing openers, no spinner and a world class bowler in Mohammad Asif only to find out that we forgot to educate him properly about drugs. The list of grouses is long, but I need to take a pause and stop here with a salute to a great humanist and professional: Bob Woolmer! May your soul rest in peace.

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