Tuesday, 20 March 2007

My Encounter With Woolmer

So Kanpur lost its adopted son of the soil. Born in Kanpur, 19 Test matches in English colours, coaching South Africa and then Pakistan – Woolmer was nothing short of a cricket nomad.

Two years back, I remember being in Kanpur for the penultimate match of the India-Pakistan ODI series.

Away from the on-field circus, Woolmer was scheduled to visit the Georgina McRobert Memorial Hospital — his birthplace — and the hospital authorities had prepared the birth certificate which was to be handed over to Woolmer.

After filing previews and all that stuff, I reached the hospital well in time. Woolmer, completely drenched after a grueling practice session, arrived straight from the nets to inaugurate the maternity ward, which was rechristened the Bob Woolmer Operation Theatre.

Repeated requests not to crowd the room fell on deaf ears and eventually Woolmer had to squeeze in his bulky frame into the choc-a-bloc ward. Coming straight from the net session, he was sweating profusely and trying not to step on anyone’s toe and made a ketchup of it.

In a brief, chaotic and yet warm ceremony, Woolmer was handed over the certificate and I peeped into it to find out that he was born at 2.15 a.m. on May 14, 1948. Despite the obvious discomfort, Woolmer sported that disarming smile and the sparkling eyes from behind the smoky specs hardly suggested here was perhaps the most analytic brain in contemporary cricket.

And it was ruthless professionalism on display again the next day as Woolmer plotted India’s peril in the ODI, where Shahid Afridi butchered the Indian bowlers at Green Park during a brutal 45-ball century.

At Kingston on Saturday, it was end of all journey for the journeyman. Now with Woolmer no more around, other teams can now relax a bit.

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