Eighteen sixes and a post-mortem

After all the thrills and upsets of the previous few days at the cricket World Cup, it was back to business as usual yesterday as the West Indies eked out a win over Zimbabwe in a match they were generally – but never quite totally – in control of. And India re-established the true gulf in class between the big boys and the minnows, blasting the Bermuda attack to the tune of 413 runs, including eighteen sixes, en route to a resounding 257-run victory. Both totals represented new World Cup records, and it was the first time any side has ever passed 400 in the tournament.

However, the abiding memory of the India/Bermuda game was not Virender Sehwag’s 87-ball 114, or even Yuvraj Singh’s explosive 83 from 46 balls. It was Bermuda’s 19-stone spinner Dwayne Leverock’s instinctive one-handed slip catch which accounted for Robin Uthappa in the second over of India’s innings – and then the mad run-around celebration which followed it. Even before the tournament, Leverock was already being feted as one of the World Cup’s cult heroes; he cemented that yesterday.

It was a joyful moment to watch, one which reminds you that sport is about so much more than simply winning and losing.

But, sadly, not as much as life and death.

Much has already been said about Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer’s saddening death on Sunday morning at the age of 58. At the time of writing, the cause of death is still unconfirmed pending the outcome of a post-mortem; a heart attack is a possibility, and stress has also been cited as a potential contributor.

In accepting the role of Pakistan cricket coach, Woolmer took on a task similar to that of Sven-Goran Eriksson managing the England football team: a stranger in a strange land where they have great passion for the sport and even greater expectations, and a team with players of great ability, but never quite a dominant world force. By all accounts, Woolmer had grown to love Pakistan, its people and its culture. And, despite a seemingly never-ending stream of ball-tampering rows, drug bans, personality clashes with star bowler Shoaib Akhtar and former coach Javed Miandad, and a moody captain in Inzamam-ul-Haq, he had moulded a team capable of challenging the very best. Ranking third in the ICC test championship and fourth in the ODI ratings, Pakistan had entered the World Cup with realistic hopes of winning the tournament, so the fact they were the first team to be eliminated from the tournament was a major surprise, notwithstanding their historic tendency for spectacular implosion.

All that, however, seems irrelevant now.

The world of cricket has lost a great coach, and a good man. And a fine player in his time as well, one who registered more than a thousand test runs and three centuries in a 19-match England career.

Robert Andrew Woolmer (1948-2007). RIP.

For an inside perspective, I would recommend Ivo Tennant’s article in today’s Times. Tennant was working with Woolmer on a book, and offers a unique insight into the man behind the tragedy.


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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