Saturday, March 24, 2007

Genteel cricket's dark side

A Pakistan cricket fan pays tribute to Bob Woolmer, in Pakistan's final game which they won and dedicated to their late coach. photo AFP

The cricketing world is horrified to hear that the Jamaican police are treating last Sunday's death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, the former Kent and England all-rounder regarded as one of the game's finest coaches, as murder.

Pakistan as one of the strong contenders to make the last eight, was ijected out of the tournamnet by debutant Ireland last weekend and angry fans took to the streets of the cricket-crazy Pakistan. This defeat was one of the biggest upset in the history of the 32- year old cricket tournamnet.

Emotions ran wild and Pakistani fans burnt coach Woolmer, 58, and captain Inzamam ul Haq in effigy. Hours later, the team's coach, was found dead in his Jamaican hotel room.

Now the police suspect foul play. A massive murder hunt is on in order to find out the perpetrators of this heinous crime. There was no forced entry into Woolmer's room and there is speculation that Woolmer was about to expose a match-fixing scandal. Stories about five bookmakers who have flown from the cricket-crazy sub-continent to Jamaica have also emerged fuelling conspiracy theories about the motive of the gruesome murder. The rumour mill is running on overtime last five days.

A former Scotland Yard detective is leading the investigation for the Jamaican police.

A devastated widow Jill described Woolmer as "a wonderful husband and a great father." She said Woolmer had a cheerful nature and a positive outlook on life and had a never-give-up attitude.

Speculation is rife that Woolmer's murder was the result of information he had on the mafia-style industry that makes billions of dollars from betting on international cricket matches. He was eliminated before he could blow the whistle.

The gentleman's game of cricket that the English introduced to its former terrories has lost its soul some time ago. The cricket's governing body the International Cricket Council, the ICC has not been able to clean up the corruption which has mired the game. Big money in the dark underworld of gambling and betting has also haunted this game. Nationalistic fervour and unfounded passion has made this game to be worshippied as a quasi-religion in the sub-continent.

It is time to do a reality check. The ICC president and others have said that the world cup should continue, for a disruption would send a signal of weakness to the criminals. So the world cup of cricket should continue for what it is worth. But has the ICC and others explained the worth of this sad spectacle? Is it worth the life of a human being, be it a coach, player or anyone else? Those who have the responsibility to run this sport have failed to provide adequate security to avoid such a tragedy, knowing very well that top players have been involved in match fixing in the past.

The game cannot be bigger than the life of a single individual. It is time for the organisers of this event to take a step back and put their house into order making sure that criminal elements have been rooted out. Woolmer's death has put a dampener on the World Cup, which will always be remembered for an awful tragedy.

Cricket has lost a sporting hero and and innovative coach.

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