Inzamam remembers tragic Woolmer

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 7:01 [IST]
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Karachi: Twelve months after the death of Bob Woolmer, former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has admitted that he will never forget the inspirational cricket coach.

"Pakistan cricket will always be indebted to Bob Woolmer for his contribution to the game," Inzamam told AFP in an interview to mark the first anniversary of the former England Test batsman's death which sent shockwaves through the sport and cast a shadow over the 2007 World Cup.

"I want to forget the tragedies of the World Cup, but I can never forget Bob. He was not only an excellent coach, but also a very good human being."

Woolmer, 58, who had also coached South Africa, was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica on March 18, 2007, just a day after Pakistan had been sensationally knocked out of the World Cup following a shock defeat to Ireland.

The tragedy was initially treated as murder with some commentators insisting that Woolmer was killed to prevent him blowing the whistle on illegal betting, the curse of the game in Asia.

However, after the biggest manhunt in Jamaican history and following months of wild speculation, an inquest jury in October eventually returned an open verdict on Woolmer's death.

Inzamam was so shattered by the events that he quit one-day cricket in tears immediately after Pakistan's last game in the doomed Caribbean campaign.

"He was helpful to all and very accommodating. He always thought about the team and saw to it that we kept improving," added Inzamam, who also quit Test cricket in October last year.

"After the defeat to Ireland we were all depressed but Bob was trying to console everyone and was trying to convince us that it was just a bad day and things would improve for the team.

"He asked me what were my plans. I told him that my mind was not working and we would talk the following day, but that opportunity never came and we got the shocking news of his death."

Woolmer had himself ruled out any hasty decision over his own future with the team.

"I'm deeply hurt and I don't know how this is going to affect me, but I will let you know," Woolmer had told AFP in an exclusive interview following the defeat.

When his death was initially treated as murder, the Pakistan players were finger-printed and DNA-tested before Jamaican police finally announced in June that Woolmer, who suffered from diabetes, had died of natural causes.

Former international leg-spinner, and bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed said Woolmer was an inspiration for all those he coached.

"Bob was successful at county level where he coached Warwickshire, then lifted South Africa and was hoping to build Pakistan into a great team before he met a cruel fate," said Mushtaq.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have dedicated their indoor cricket school to their late coach, which was inaugurated by both the Pakistan and South African teams.

"Bob will be remembered in Pakistan cricket and hopefully his legacy will continue. His memory is still fresh because his contribution to Pakistan cricket was immense," said PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf.

When Woolmer joined Pakistan in June, 2004, it was a period of turmoil for the game in the country.

The defeat at the hands of arch-rivals India -- both in Tests and a one-day series -- had shaken Pakistan cricket and had led to the axing of legendary batsman Javed Miandad as coach.

Woolmer took time to settle as Pakistan levelled their two-Test home series against Sri Lanka before Australia thrashed them 3-0.

The turning point came when Pakistan beat Ashes-winning England 2-0 on home soil in 2005 before squaring Test series in India and the West Indies, and beating Sri Lanka away.

Both Inzamam and Mushtaq said they were willing to help at Woolmer's academy in South Africa.

"I feel for his family because they are the real sufferers. Whenever they need me to coach at Bob's academy, I will be more than willing to go," said Inzamam.

"Perhaps through this we can pay back for what he did for Pakistan."

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