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Monday, March 19, 2007

Bob Woolmer

Bob Woolmer, as Cricinfo sensitively puts it, "has died in a Kingston hospital after being found unconscious in his hotel room hours after his side's elimination from the World Cup".

I first saw Bob play cricket when I was living and working in Kent at the turn of the 1970s. He progressed from the Kent second XI
(Wisden said tersely of his 1967 performance there "R Woolmer, medium paced, did enough to join the staff") to the first, and thereafter to the England team. Of course he subsequently became coach of South Africa and then Pakistan.

I saw him play for Kent several times. My abiding memory of him is of an exchange during the Kent v Warwickshire match at Gravesend in 1970. One of the Warwickshire batsmen (Dennis Amiss, I think) was scoring freely off the Kent bowling (Derek Underwood, who took 14 wickets in the match, must have been out of the attack at the time) and the scoreboard, which consisted of several revolving cylinders (like a large combination lock) was having trouble keeping up with the score. I called out "Steady on, the computer in the scoreboard's broken down" to which Woolmer, who was fielding nearby, replied "Computer or commuter?" I've not made many interjections as a cricket spectator, but this was the only time I've ever received a response. It's also the earliest recollection I have of anyone mentioning a computer.

The last time I saw Bob in person was at the Adelaide Oval in 2005 after a Pakistan v West Indies ODI . Our eyes met, though at first I didn't recognise him; he didn't remember me either, but then he had no reason to. Over the intervening 25 years his hair had turned greyer and his body fleshier, which reminded me that neither of us were young any more. Nor were we, and especially Bob, old, which makes his untimely and perhaps unnecessary death all the more poignant.

Update 22 March

The Jamaican police are investigating the circumstances surrounding Woolmer's death. Here are reports from the BBC and Cricinfo and some
links to other media comment .

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