Bob Woolmer: What did he know?
Yesterday, Jamaican police announced that Bob Woolmer
, the coach of Pakistan's national cricket team, had been strangled in his hotel room, on the very night that his team had been knocked out of the International Cricket Council's World Cup
tournament by lowly Ireland
. Ireland's victory was in itself extraordinary, but this shocking development has cast a shadow of the tournament, which takes place once every four years and is meant to be a celebration of world cricket.
Suspicion is being directed at the international gambling syndicates that in the last decade or so have grown exponentially as one-day cricket games (the most popular form of the game) has become a huge industry, generating revenue from TV rights, advertising, and sponsorship. These games are now played so often that they have become meaningless; and there is sometimes more money for players to make by "throwing" a game for cash than winning it.
This happened with the late South African cricket captain, Hansie Cronje
, in 1999, and the Indian star Muhammad Azharuddin
. Some of the recent Pakistani stars had been accused of misconduct, and a couple had had to miss this tournament after taking drugs and then getting injured. Bob Woolmer was writing a book about these scandals, even though he was apparently innocent of them himself, when he was murdered. Did he know too much? And what was he going to say?
But there's another story: and that is the fanaticism that now attends the game
, especially in India and Pakistan, where the loss of a game or a tournament is treated as a national scandal and there are riots on the streets. The game has, unlike its image as a genteel pastime for gentlemen, in fact always been the repository of national feelings and interethnic rivalries. But if the murder of Woolmer is a result of that fanaticism, then it's clear we have moved onto a whole new level of intimidation that threatens to bring the whole game down.