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Woolmer’s sudden death shocks cricketing world
KINGSTON, Mar 19: The cricketing fraternity plunged into grief and a pall of gloom hung over the World Cup following the sudden and mysterious death of Pakistan’s coach Bob Woolmer on Sunday.


Woolmer was rushed to the Kingston University Hospital after being found unconscious in his hotel room in the morning, and was declared dead by the doctors at 12:14 p.m. local time (22:44 IST) on Sunday.

Woolmer’s death came barely a day after Pakistan’s humiliating ouster from the World Cup following a shock three-wicket defeat at the hands of minnows Ireland.

The former England Test batsman was 58 and survived by wife Gill and two sons.

The Jamaican Constabulary Force said in a release that a team of police and medical personnel was conducting preliminary investigations at both the hotel and the hospital.

“The cause of death has not yet been established but will be determined after a post mortem examination is conducted. This post mortem will be done at the earliest possible time,” the JCF statement read.

But Nasim Ashraf, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman, said that Woolmer had told him he was not only a diabetic but also suffered from a rare condition where he had to wear a mask during sleep as he was prone to stop breathing during his slumber.

Coming as it did close on the heels of Pakistan’s early elimination from the tournament; the stress of being an international coach could have been a factor too.

Incidentally, Woolmer had mentioned it in the post-match press conference, the last time he was seen in public.

“It takes a toll on you. You are away from the family, always travelling and living out of the suitcase,” he had said.

Ashraf expressed condolences and support of the Pakistan team and the Board to Woolmer’s wife in Capetown.

“We are there for Woolmer’s wife and his family. This sudden and shocking news has still not sunk in properly,” he said.

Tributes and condolences poured in from around the globe, including Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who is also the Patron of PCB, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, top ICC officials and players.

“The President and the Prime Minister have expressed their heartfelt condolences over the tragic death of Woolmer,” a statement on Pakistan’s national news agency AAP said.

“In their message to his family (in South Africa), they said Woolmer’s services to the game will be long remembered, and that he had promoted the game in Pakistan with dedication and single mindedness.”

Viewed as a villain till Sunday, Woolmer seemed to have won over his critics posthumously.

“No matter what has happened in the past, I am deeply saddened to hear his death. He was a decent human being,” said former captain Javed Miandad, one of Woolmer’s biggest critics during his tenure as coach from June 2004 to date.

Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who had a thorny relationship with the former South African coach as recently as the South African tour earlier this year, said the two of them shared many memorable moments.

“It is unbelievable he is no more in this world. I shared a lot of good moments with him and he called me his son. Before going (to the Caribbean) we had spoken to each other about my future,” Akhtar said.

Woolmer took over as Pakistan’s coach from Miandad after the team suffered its first ever home loss to arch-rivals India in early 2004.

He had earlier coached South Africa for five years from 1994 to 1999 and led them to World Cup semi-final in England before quitting to become the ICC High Performance Manager.

Woolmer, who was born in the Uttar Pradesh city of Kanpur in 1948 and could speak a smattering of Hindi, made his Test debut for England against Australia in 1975 and went on to score 1059 runs at 33.09 in 19 Tests.

The ICC president Percy Sonn and Chief Executive Malcolm Speed paid rich tributes Woolmer while the Indian team management issued a statement in Port-of-Spain condoling the death.

“Bob was an outstanding human being who loved the game and always tried to instill that love and passion for our great sport into anyone he came into contact with. He will be sorely missed,” Sonn said.

“He has left an indelible mark on the game that he loved and lived for. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Bob’s family, friends and all members of Pakistan team at this sad time,” the Indian team said in a statement.

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