On March 18, 2007, Bob Woolmer, the coach of the Pakistani National cricket team, was found dead in his hotel room in Kingston, Jamaica. Kingston police ruled the death a homicide since coach Woolmer appeared to have been strangled to death. This all came in the midst of the 2007 Cricket World Cup being played in the West Indies.
For the uninitiated, the game of cricket has evolved from the staid game played by English gentlemen in white uniforms to a sport of intense passion that rivals only that of European football. The countries of the British Commonwealth and Britain’s former colonies, such as India and Pakistan, have some of the most rabid fans. Not coincidently, India and Pakistan also field two of the best teams in cricket and both were heavily favored to go far in the Cricket World Cup 2007.
Therefore, it came as quite a shock, and even devastation to fans of Pakistani cricket, that the Pakistani cricket team, coached by Bob Woolmer was tossed out of the Cricket World Cup 2007 in the first round by Ireland. The Irish cricket team is not exactly a cricket power house and certainly not of the same caliber as Pakistan. This fact has raised some eyebrows in cricket circles, but we’ll return to this in a moment.
The sport of cricket has not been without more than its fair share of controversy, rancor, and blatant cheating in the form of match fixing. Indian fans rioted in the 1996 Cricket World cup because their team was losing and the match had to be stopped as a result. In the late 1990s, the captain of the South African cricket team was banned from the sport for life for his involvement with match fixing. The level of passion when it comes to Cricket World Cup play has even reached the highest levels of government. The Pakistani government ordered an official investigation into why its team lost during the 1996 Cricket World cup.
But have things gotten to the point that someone would resort to murder out of passion or greed because of a game played with oversized wooden bats and a small leather ball? For the record, the players of the Pakistani team were all cleared of suspicion in the murder, at least for the moment. The initial theory is that the crime was committed by the so-called cricket mafia. Early evidence in the case suggests that coach Woolmer may have been killed by someone he knew since there were no signs of forced entry into his room or signs of a struggle. This last point is hard to reconcile since Bob Woolmer was a big man who was capable of putting up a good fight.
This is certainly a great tragedy for not only fans of cricket and the Pakistani players, but also for the friends and family of coach Woolmer. He was well liked by his players and respected throughout the cricket world. Bob Woolmer was never associated with any cheating scandals, even when he was the coach of the South African cricket team during the match-fixing episode there.
Whether it turns out that Bob Woolmer was indeed murdered by the “cricket mafia” or even an irate fan or fans distraught over the embarrassing elimination of Pakistan from the first round of the Cricket World Cup 2007, the game of cricket has taken yet a further turn to the dark side.