March 18th 2007 will always be etched in the memory of cricket lovers from across the world. Less than 24 hours after Pakistan’s exit from the World Cup at the hands of Ireland, Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room in Jamaica and was pronounced DOA (Dead on Arrival) on being taken to hospital.
I can never forget the look on Woolmer’s face after Pakistan’s loss to Ireland. It looked as if he would shatter into a billion pieces if touched or spoken to. The manner in which he packed his gift to World Cricket, the laptop, it seemed that life would never be the same again for him. Indeed not only did life change, he lost it altogether.
Surely, words would have been exchanged between Woolmer and the Pakistani cricket management about who was responsible. Ultimately the defeat would have been pinned on him and the captain. Inzi is no stranger to such performances, or rather the lack thereof, so he wouldn’t have been too affected by it, other than announcing his retirement, which was due anyways. Still it saddens me to see an outstanding batsmen retire in such fashion.
Till now, PCB, ICC, or the hospital—where Woolmer was taken¬—have not disclosed the actual cause of death. Even if they do, it hardly matters, Woolmer can never come back. The over-enthusiastic Indian media seems to have solved the mystery, they’ve started airing the theory of substance abuse being as probable cause. I don’t think this is true. Woolmer appeared to be a much stronger man; else he could not have been able to hang on as Pakistan’s coach for three years.
It is almost cliché to say that he can never be replaced, but it is bang-on in Woolmer’s case. Very few coaches have enjoyed great success as player on the international level. As a player, Woolmer was hardly effective. He played only 19 tests and six one-dayers for England in ther 1970s. This only goes to show that only a good player can be a good coach. As coach of South Africa, he had a record of winning over 70% of his matches. It’s a pity that Pakistan couldn’t script something even remotely similar in spite of having Woolmer as coach for three years.
The last words that Woolmer said before disappearing into his room never to come out alive were:
I would like to sleep on my future as a coach
Guess he took a decision on life, and not only on coaching while asleep. May his soul rest in peace.