Three Farewells

59 Comments

If there was any proof needed of how high the stakes have become in the world of cricket and what unbearable levels of stress players and officials are subject to during the course of high-profile tournaments like the World Cup, Bob Woolmer’s death, most likely due to the emotional stress of Pakistan being knocked out of the Cup in the first round, is it.

Revolutionizing the role of the cricket coach from the glorified drill-instructor of the pre-Woolmerian days to the “laptop” supremo performing computerized data-analysis to mine weaknesses and strengths of team players as well as those of opponents, Bob Woolmer will always occupy a special place in the history of the modern cricket game. And ironically it is that modern cricket game, bankrolled by obscene corporate sponsorships, driven by media hype and fuelled by pulp patriotism, that by putting immense pressure on its stars to perform has brought them to their physical and emotional precipices, from where one push can send them over the edge — a disquieting fact now brought into cruel focus by the death of Bob Woolmer.

Bob Woolmer had undoubtedly one of the most stressful jobs in the cricket world: coaching Team Pakistan which has historically been a volatile bunch of extremely talented but combative individuals with barely concealed personal agendas and ambitions. Whether it being allegedly slapped by Shoaib Akthar or battling Afridi or trying to convince Inzamam, Woolmer displayed great patience and man-management skills trying his best to get everyone to work together (unlike a colleague of his who manages a subcontinental team that shall remain nameless). Maybe he did not have as much effect on Pakistan’s performance as he had on South Africa’s but it will not be wrong to say that given the constraints, very few could have done a better job than he did.

Farewell Bob Woolmer. You will be missed.

Farewell too to dear Inzamam ul Haq, that amicable Paddington bear, much caricatured and lampooned but at the end of the day, one of the best batsmen of this cricket generation, who retired from one day cricket today taking responsibility for having led Pakistan to its biggest debacle in recent memory. There was more than a bit of sadness here too as Inzamam, faced with the task of rescuing his team against Ireland, failed miserably — the same Inzamam who many years ago in another World Cup and in another similar hopeless situation had single handedly brought Pakistan victory with some of the savagest batting seen in modern times—thus poignantly reminding us of the inevitable atrophy of one’s talent that advancing years bring about.

And a final farewell to the glorious fighting spirit that characterized Pakistan cricket for the last twenty years. As an Indian fan, I had always been jealous of the immense all-round talent that the Pakistani team possessed from the mid 80s to the early 2000s. But the thing I had envied the most was their ability to win from the tightest situations possible: it was common knowledge that greater the challenge, more dangerous the Pakistanis became. A Manzoor Elahi would come from nowhere and take a match away, a then-insignificant player like Salim Malik would announce his arrival with an innings of blinding power in a cause all but totally lost, a débutante like Inzamam ul Haq could turn defeat into victory in the biggest stage possible.

Not any more though. Faced with a back-to-the-wall situation against Ireland there was no inspired performance, no Houdini-like escape as the teams of yore could come up with unerring predictability. Mohammed Yousuf, despite being in the middle of a Bradmanian run of form, could not fire when Pakistan needed him the most, the lesser lights of the team did not come up with career-defining innings/spells. And with two of their best bowlers under a drug cloud and one of their consistent performers injured, the talent cabinet that once overflowed looked desperately bare.

It has truly been a sad day for cricket.

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59 thoughts on “Three Farewells

  1. Wondering if Woolmer died due to diffusion of the glorious fighting spirit in gaseous form (‘World Cup Snippets 2’) due to certain unattended fissure in the Pak team for which Inzy claimed responsibility and left, in which case the three farewells are justly reconciled. Good post, GB, you have strung the farewells very aptly indeed.

  2. Well said GB!!!! It was really sad to see Pakistan bow out without a fight. Inzy will surely be missed. So will be Woolmer, may he rest in peace.

  3. RIP, Bob Woolmer. A very sad end to a person who brought a new meaning to the coaching profession.

    Sad also is Inzy’s retirement. His graceful batting & great rescue acts would be sorely missed by all cricketing fans.

    WC’07 has not been enjoyable so far.

  4. Yeah…Inzy was one of the greatest you could get. Besides what was admirable was he lacked the arrogance that is so well associated with Pakistan. We will sorely miss that gentle giant.

    Farewell Inzy

  5. Waiting for more farewells addressed to “a subcontinental team that shall remain nameless”. Sincerely hope there are no more RIPs, as many fans would not stop at any thing less! Two neighbors are proving to be twin-brothers, separated in the “Kumbh Mela” of independence

  6. A very sad event. Makes one wonder whether the game, however glorious it may be, is worth the price of the life of a man who contributed so much for its progress.

    But why am I blaming the game?? It is not the game which is at fault but all those who have played a part in transforming it from a gentleman’s game to this monstrosity full of “OOH AAH India”, “Ladhega to jeetega”, “mujrim kaun” and Mandira’s cleavage.

    This World Cup is over for me. This is just not cricket.

  7. “Doing it internationally, it takes a toll on you,” he said. “The endless travelling and the non-stop living out of hotels.”
    A toll it took, and how. Was really shocked to read the news of his death….

  8. Bob Wolmer, RIP. A man of vision and purpose in the game of cricket is no more. He will be missed.

    But there is something that makes me feel uneasy. May mystery be solved about the cause of his death.

  9. Bob Woolmer will be missed, Inzamam even more so by the Cricketing World. But writing off Pakistani fighting spirit based on one World Cup performance is clearly premature. You see Pakistanis measure themselves w.r.to India. So right now, a series against us will do them more good than any foreign coach. If the “nameless team” indeed returns home soon, perhaps that would console them more than Inzi’s resignation.

    It is the Indian Cricket, with no such claim to fighting qualities, which is on its death bed. These days the advertisements that are trying to cash in on the World Cup, have become so blatantly manipulative and dumb that they are giving the “Men in Blue” competition in driving the fans away from Cricket.

    …Abt the last match, don’t you think at least bengalis should be happy about the last India-Bangladesh match, given that on both sides they have done well?

  10. My dirty mind feels there’s some foul play as far as Woolmers’ death goes. Its sad in any case.

    Looking at the pattern from the past, Inzy might still be around for some more time. Wasim Akram, Miandad, Imran Khan have all made *comebacks* from retirements.

    Also i feel Tendulkar should declare his retirement and stick to that decision after the WC. I am his greatest fan , even today, yet i feel he can’t go too far from here on. 17/18 yrs is a very long time for any sport.

    Both Inzy and SRT are greats. Both were unfairly compared to each other. Both have given cricketing fans some precious moments to savor. Yet both have let down their respective teams at times.

    If SRT does not retire now, it will be a disgraceful exit for him at some point soon.
    If India exits before super 8 [which is more than likely], that should nail it for him.

  11. The most ridiculous thing is Sachin’s plan about continuing till 2011. Indians shud immediately start rejecting the products he endorses, stop watching matches he plays, and shud openly express the displeasure in the form of dharnas of seeing him on the cricket ground. Then only that money-minded idiot Sachin would realize the fact that he does not have the stamina to hit the ball even up to gulley. What a ridiculous player he has been.

  12. Arnab,

    It is indeed a rather sad day. Bob Woolmer would always be remembered as the man who started ‘scientific coaching’and as one who had oodles of patience.
    And with the retirement of Inzy, cricket has lost one of its characters — Characters which creates anecdotes to be remembered in the years to come and make the game so very interesting and human.
    Coming just after the rise of teenagers and new names from Bangladesh and Ireland, what can one say but ‘Old order changeth yielding place to the new’….
    Personaly, how I yearn for those old lazy afternoons at the Eden Gardens when cricket was more a game and less a war.

  13. Srinivas@ : “…Abt the last match, don’t you think at least bengalis should be happy about the last India-Bangladesh match, given that on both sides they have done well?”

    ————————————————————————————————–

    And, how old are you? Grow up and step out of your well of darkness.

  14. Excellent post..Just returned today morning from a trek to the Himalayas and realised that cricket as I knew it, had changed dramatically in these three days.
    Living in India, one does not have too many people with whom one can share one’s sadness about Inzy’s retirement and Woolmer’s death.
    Your brilliant post gives one the opportunity to unburden one’s heart by means of this comment. Thanks…

  15. Hey Kishor, chill man. Sachin is seriously considering shifting to Kochi. Just watchout for his comeback in 2011 World Cup, as the south indian ninja (-:

  16. Great post Arnab and thats what i call a true cricket lover.

    I am too disappointed with this shocking piece of news and isn’t it sad that we take games so seriously? I am an avid cricket fan but its just a game at the end of the day and the team that played better that day, won.

  17. Bob Woolmer really revolutionized coaching and actually played an important role in the development of the associate members of ICC. Condolences to his family – he will be missed.

    bankrolled by obscene corporate sponsorships, driven by media hype and fuelled by pulp patriotism

    Except perhaps for the patriotism bit, this is true for any professional sports (heck even college sports in the USA) – and the money in cricket comes no where close to soccer, leave aside the US sports. Perhaps in time, cricketers will be learn to cope with this stress level. The major problem as I see it, is that while all professional sportsmen get a off-season, cricket is now played almost 365-days, especially for the subcontinental teams.

  18. absolutely excellent article about Bob Woolmer, the reason why people are feeling shocked, is not just because he was a coach, but what a gentleman he was.

    As a Pakistani fan, this is sad news.

    Bob Woolmer was a great coach, with many pioneering ideas. Not just that, but a nice person. That was the main thing about him. I was just listening to a story on one of the Pakistani news channels, and one of the commentators said that whenever any Pakistani player would go to South Africa, he would invite them to his home. He even invited the Pakistani team for dinner during the SA tour.

    He was willing to adapt to any culture. The main thing I liked about him was his relationship with the Pakistani players, you can tell through their coaching sessions, and photos what a relationship they had. It was a relationship of friendship.

    He kept his own website and always tried to answer cricket fans questions.

    He kept his own blog on cricinfo to keep fans updated, and about his ideas of the game of cricket.

    He kept himself dignified throughout the various controversies in Pakistani cricket.

    From what I saw, he was a true Gentleman.

    Bob Woolmer Condolence book:

    http://www.pakpassion.net/ppforum/showthread.php?t=38139

  19. Its sad to know about Woolmer. May his sould rest in peace. He has done wonders as a coach & hope the modern day cricketers pay their homage to him while ‘laptop-analysing’ Cricket.

    Also sad is to see Inzy ‘Aloo’ retiring from One day cricket. He was a great player & though his running between the wickets was pathetic, he could single handedly turn defeat to victory. Now you can’t say that of many players.

    I think the problem with Pakistan team has been being in news for all the wrong reasons. In the good old days, if India won any match against Pakistan, it was a great feeling because the Pakistan team always gave a great fight.

    This World Cup will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Not good for Cricket. Definitely not.

  20. Hi bhopale, when sachin comes next time to any town in south india to play, u can see me in the stadium with a banner “sachin plz retire”. Yeah that is definitely me.

  21. Very touching piece. Thanks. Have you thought of the link between the 1992 World Cup and this 2007 edition? Both Woolmer and Inzy made their mark in 1992, Woolmer as coach of a great, new team, South Africa, Inzy as a Pakistan baby, but a prodigious baby who played a key role in Pakistan lifting that World Cup. Actually, there were more who were first seen in 1992 and will perhaps be seen for the last time in a World Cup in 2007, among them Sachin Tendulkar, Brain Lara, Jacque Kallis and Shaun Pollock. Some of the 1992 greats have vanished already: Hansie, Donald, Cullinan, Jonty, etc. Personally, I’ll miss Inzy. He was one of those ‘characters’ which makes cricket much more than a game of loss and win.

  22. @VonRunstedt: Stop showing off your halo, it doesn’t impress me all that much. I am 30 , If you are any younger, you badly need some sense of humor. How many times do you smile in a day anyway?

    PS: No malice towards any Bengali’s reading this, that was just a detail that caught my attention.

  23. Hi Karim, do u think this is going to be sachin’s last cup ? with sponsor’s blessings, he will continue until he turns at least 80.

  24. Wanted to make another point. This is easily the most eventful start to a World Cup. A death and a retirement apart, quite a few things have happened. A drunk Flintoff, drowning in his cup of sorrow, has been stripped of his vice captaincy, 6 sixes were hit by Gibbs in one over creating a world record, the highest number of sixes in an ODI was hit by South Africa, and that too in a 40-over match, and the fastest 50 in a WC was scored by Boucher — all within a week of the tournament. And two minnows, Bangladesh and Ireland, are set to make it to the Super 8 for the first time. This is also the first time minnows have actually impacted on the course of the tournament. If you are not paralyzed by the emotional drain that India’s pathetic predicament might have caused, you could also say that this Cup rocks!

  25. @Srinivas: Cool man, I get your sense of humour. In fact, I thought of the same – Bongs with ladoos in both hands – and told a friend that this looks like Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal with East Bengal winning. To which he said it’s more like Mohun Bagan vs Mohammadan Sporting 🙂

  26. @kishor: Yes, indeed, Sachin can go on and on and on…but it’s improbable, altho’ he himself is said to be looking forward to the 2011 Cup. Let’s see. I won’t mind if he is good enough to stay, nor will I be surprised if he goes.

  27. Very soon GB u will need to pen a farewell to Indian team too. I just hope its not this soon :(.

    Inzamam – sigh, on his day, he was a delight to watch. Woolmer will be missed badly – who can forget Cronje-Woolmer era.

    S

  28. In conclusion, forgive me for being bitter and please keep the “it’s just a game” comments at bay. What hurts is not that India lost but the fact that they played like amateurs in the biggest cricketing carnival without passion or cohesion, a fact brought into sharper focus by their opponents who had ample amounts of everything that the Men in Blue so grievously lacked.

  29. Aha ! What if the Pak coach who died was not a non-Paki ? Would we be reading this article then ? Think about it.

    And why blame Tendulkar alone ? Isnt it a collective team failure ? The captain should take responsibility instead of blaming anybody. Inzy did the right thing.

  30. @turrtle: Aplogies I spelled your name wrong in my previous comment.

    The pace at which Dada is playing may make a difference when it all boils down to Net Run rate. But does he know what we don’t know i.e. India will lose against Sri Lanka?

  31. @Srinivas- I tend to agree with Von Runstedt here. Even though your comment was in jest, it is not exactly easy to see the funny side. Yes its true that people of both sides of the border have a lot in common, but a comment like ” you should be happy…” is a bit ham handed. Patriotism may be a very subjective term, but sometimes it shows a lot of things. Do you know that there is a place called Razabazar in Kolkata where crackers are burst along with wild celebrations when Pakistan defeats India in a cricket match or when they took Kargil? I have seen many people in Eden who are from Calcutta but wave the Pakistani flag. So you see…even though your comment was light hearted, it can be not be imbibed that easily. People may be prone to interpret it as you branding Bengali people as anything but Indians. Plus going by that analogy, people of Tamil Nadu should feel happy if Sri Lanka beat India. 🙂

    @Karim- Correction. Kallis, Pollock and Cullinan didnt play in the 1992 World Cup. It is worth mentioning that the person who played at the position where Kallis played, was a treat to watch in 1992. I still miss those Peter Kirsten singles.

  32. gb:

    “at the end of the day, one of the best batsmen of this cricket generation”

    cliches rarely get to me as much as this one does. you probably want to say “at the beginning of the day” here, as at the end of the day, aalu (disclaimer alert) runs out of steam, like he did at the end of his career.

    “And a final farewell to the glorious fighting spirit that characterized Pakistan cricket for the last twenty years.”

    what are you saying? the pakistan team did a heck of a lot more to defend 132 (129?) than the indian team defended 191! probably the only team that has successfully defended a smaller one day total was probably our own india (125) vs. the alleged “fighting spirit” filled pakistan. ok, i get it, that’s why you put that 20 years in there – pakistan’s rothman trophy debacle was just before that, wasn’t it?

    – s.b.

    disclaimer: i say ‘aalu’ in a very loving manner, like you say paddington bear (having never been to paddington, i don’t know what that bear looks like; on the other hand, as a desi vegetarian, i can relate to aalu) – and very unlike that fan who was attacked with the upraised bat.

  33. @yourfan2: You are right, perhaps I should have been more careful. I don’t come from TamilNadu. But given the similarities, I have a soft corner for its people and culture, although we choose to form a separate state of Andhra long back. My assumption was that the bonds between W.B and Bangladesh are just as close despite everything. I just found it interesting that the sole decent performance on that miserable day, from the Indian side is also from a Bengali. My comment may not very witty, but you have made your point more sensibly, which is something I can’t say about the other guy.

    I am sure you know Sri Lanka is not a Tamil nation, so lets not go any further into that.

  34. @Srinivas- Forget it. I may be wrong, but I think many Sri Lankan cricketers were Tamils. If I aint mistaken, Murali himself is one.

    Anyway….about Woolmer, as is almost always, Roebuck says it the best:

  35. The cause of the Bob Woolmer’s sad demise is yet to be ascertained. Some say its due to an overdose of drugs, some say its stress related. Some even say that he was murdered by the bookies! But Imran Khan didnt wait for the autopsy report. He has pointed out the people responsible for Woolmer’s death. :):)

    http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1085696

  36. @Srinivas: I may not pay heed to niceties, as yourfan2 did, towards your attempted humor. The reason as yourfan2 has clarified, your attempted joke amounts to branding a community.

    Will you say a similar thing an Indian Muslim that he/she ought to be happy because Pakistan won?

    What so special about Sourav Ganguly’s ethnicity? This very blog of Greatbong is testimony to the flame wars accusing Bengalis of being partial to SG. And yet, it is people like you that actually think of such an association.

    Your further posts like “bonds between BD and WB” indicates neither are your conversant with certain historical aspects nor are you familiar with the present realities there. Your source of information and basis of perception maybe from interaction with a set of Bengalis that are denizens of Kolkata proper, the self styled “bhadraloks”. Beware, they are not the complete picture of Bengali psyche.

  37. @VonRunstedt: You are correct in that I am “neither conversant nor familiar with certain present realities” there. This blog has a wide audience and some are clearly more conversant with Bengal than others. That knowledge doesn’t quite make you the “enlightened one”. In my view Bengal is more of a cultural than religious entity and larger than the “community” that you see Bengalis as. Further, I like to believe that there will be people from the Bhadraloks of the Kolkatta proper, who can portray Bengal in balanced manner.

    “Will you say a similar thing an Indian Muslim that he/she ought to be happy because Pakistan won?”–perhaps not, but I may say that to lighten up some Tamil friend if he is feeling downbeat after Muralidharan cleans up the Indian batting line up (like he once did in Sharjah)

    “What so special about Sourav Ganguly’s ethnicity? This very blog of Greatbong is testimony to the flame wars accusing Bengalis of being partial to SG.”– Well, Bengalis are special for quite a few things from their intellectual pursuits to Ganguly’s sixes. Being partial to Ganguly is hardly a Bengali prerogative; my Uncle’s son grew up idolizing Ganguly and remained loyal even when he was out of the team. I will be very surprised if he can locate Bengal on the map.

    I still think it’s only the Bengalis on both sides who did well that day. If I were a Bengali, I would have smiled at the irony of it. If you choose to see it in the context of something else, and think I have branded the Bengali “community”, it’s your choice. The problem lies with a rather common mindset that only looks for, and finds imagined insults on Bengal (and God knows what else!) in all blog posts. We know you are not conversant with the so called “niceties” or humor; but please tone down your psycho analysis and take a leave from your job as the sentinel of Bengal and allied causes!

  38. @slashgod : Let this post be dedicated to Bob Woolmer. The appropriate place for Indias chances would be the other post…”They Blue it”. Awaiting your analysis there….

  39. Again as posted on the previous post, I apologize for not being able to reply individually to your comments. Work pressure and whatever time I have left is being dedicated to cricket.

  40. “it was common knowledge that greater the challenge, more dangerous the Pakistanis became”

    I’m convinced that this attitude of the Pakistanis was reserved entirely and only when they were playing against India. How I’ve wished that the Indian cricket team would display sort of aggression too, instead of folding like a cheap deckchair anytime they played the Pakistanis. *sigh*

  41. i dont know what to say….words fail me…this has been the worst weekend of my life.
    cricket is my life and pakistan losing the match to ireland was the biggest shocking moment of my life….i was so angry,so much in anguish that i could not sleep for an entire day….when bob woolmer’s death news came,all that anger changed into sympathy and gloominess…nothing seemed important….is this the price a person pays for dedication to cricket???!!everything seemed meaningless…a person had lost his life for a game….i could not be more dejected!!
    seeing inzy for the last time on the field against zimbabwe and being given a farewell by players from both the sides….looking at his teary eyes and his dejected walk,i could not control the tears that had been waiting to flow since the last 2 days……i can not even begin to tell how much i’ll miss him and this i realized when i saw him the one last time on the field for one-day matches….how could people so easily forget all the good things he had done for us….of the 86 one -day matches in which he has appeared as captain,we won 52 of them…..i can not just see him go…i wish i could give him a hug and somehow stop him:(
    Inzy all the pakistanis would miss u greatly,we forgive u and we love u….thanks for all the wonderful victories over the years…..ur a national hero:))!!

  42. Yes Dejected Paki Girl. I fully agree with you. Inzi’s last walk back was a very emotional few minutes, even more so when you consider that 15 years ago to the very day, he took Pakistan to glory with that most glorious of innings. Inzi was a great personal favourite of mine and even though I am not Pakistani, I shall definitely miss him.

  43. All my sad cricketing memories are from the World Cups over the years: Kapil getting out to a poor shot against England (was it Eddie Hemmings?) in the 87 Cup, the Calcutta riots in 96, losing the 03 finals & now Woolmer’s death. Reading about Woolmer & watching Inzi on YouTube I keep remembering CLR James’s quote: “What do they know of cricket who only cricket knows?”. It’s just not worth it, it’s supposed to be a fun game after all with wins & losses.

  44. @dejected paki girl @ GB: Like you I too had a lump in my throat when Inzy walked back after his brief but characteristically classy innings. Feels terrible that we won’t see him again. GB, I can’t remember but there was this post about Pakistan mandating the use of Urdu for post-match press conferences. It attracted some funny and possibly cruel comments on Inzy’s English. But what to do? English isn’t his language; he doesn’t know it. It makes him appear tongue-tied, but in Urdu (rather Hindustani) he is quick with the retort and witty. He was asked after the Ireland match what he thought of Pakistan’s ‘performance’. Said Inzy: “Performance tha hi nahin to main kya bolun?” Now, he wouldn’t have been able to say this in English and bring a smile to us who follow Hindustani. Beyond Pakistan’s dubious claim of propagating Urdu, I think there is merit in going against cricket’s one language hegemony. It isn’t so in soccer.
    @yourfan2 & dharmendra: you are probably right. I’ll check out. Tks

  45. Karim has made a good point – who gives a fuck abt speaking correct english; they need not know english to be playing good cricket

  46. anotherrrrrrrr shockkkkkkkkkk!!!!!
    bob was murdered!!its confirmed now!!!!someone strangled him:S
    what do i say to this?whoever did it was i think in some way an acquintance of bob or close friend coz there are no signs of much force….seriously this is one big mystery….in the current circumstances,everyone is a suspect…..why would anyone do this??
    i always thought that this was an idea from conspiracy theorists that bob was murdered….but it really is true!!!whats happening to the world of cricket??:(

  47. Three more farewells:

    1. Greg Chappell

    2. Captaincy of Rahul Dravid

    3. Fighting spirit of Team India gained during 2002-4

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