March 18th will go down in the history of cricket as a sad day indeed. Till last evening, I was thinking about jotting down my thoughts about how Bangladesh outplayed India man to man. I was one amongst countless Indians whose sadness at India being beaten by Bangladesh and facing a very probable first round elimination, was in some small measure compensated by the fact that arch rivals Pakistan had lost to Ireland and were going to go home to jeers and brickbats. But the news of Bob Woolmer's death late last night overwhelmed all other emotions.
I desperately wanted to find out what was going on in the minds of the contemporary Pakistan fan, all of those who were screaming for Bob Woolmer's head a day earlier. If I had been one of them, I would have been wracked with guilt and been very angry at God who chose to grant this wish amongst innumerable others that I had asked of him. An article by Dileep Premchandran in Cricinfo went thus
We were sitting down to lunch after the depressing trip to the University Hospital when a man came by and asked: "Da coach who die? He Pakistan coach now?" When we said yes, he shook his head sadly, dreads blowing in the breeze. 'Maybe he take it to heart?" he said. "Even da biggest team can lose to little team, man. It a game, and da ball round."
As you listened to him, you could only wish that fans back home in India and Pakistan were possessed of such common sense or perspective on life. On waking up in the morning and checking mail, the first thing I had seen was an AFP report from India that spoke of angry mobs attacking a house that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was constructing in Ranchi. The story also went on to speak of armed guards protecting the houses of Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag and others.
It was as depressing as it was predictable. Even before Bangladesh had scored the 192 runs required to defeat India at Queen's Park Oval, Cricinfo had received feedback from so-called fans who wished to burn Dravid's house. A few hours later, Pakistani "fans" were out in the streets of Multan demanding that Inzamam-ul-Haq and Bob Woolmer be arrested."
Was it really cricket fans who attacked Dhoni's house. No, it was a group from a political outfit called Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, people who probably had no knowledge about cricket at all. For an average cricket fan like me and millions of others like me, the reaction was limited to a heated discussion over a glass of beer. All of us, of course made the usual vows to ourselves that we would stop seeing cricket from now on. This vow will be broken by today evening when we encounter "Heavy Weight" Bermuda. Cricket, for us, is a passion, but it is not something that will provoke us to extremes. This is the message that we should be conveying to our cricketers who live out of hotels continuously, travelling for months together at a time and braving injuries and complete devastation of their bodies for us.
Mr. Woolmer, as a cricket fan, I have lost interest in this world cup. I realize that my happiness that Pakistan was ousted from the world cup has taken this cruel a turn and Im ashamed of myself for it. Inzy bhai, I always enjoyed your batting, be it the late cuts or those nonchalant pulls that you played or the comic run outs that you were involved in. It is sad that you had to announce your retirement at the time when you did it, or in the manner in which you had to do it.
All in all, a sad day for cricket, one that has profoundly affected me and hopefully has put some sense into millions of effigy burners in the sub-continent.
RIP: Bob Woolmer