The brutal and senseless murder of Bob Woolmer is without doubt the most shocking event in the history of the game and casts a huge pall over this Tournament.
I remember Woolmer very well from his playing days, a stoop shouldered batsman who treated victory and defeat in the same phlegmatic manner, his magnificent ton at Lord’s in 1977 (witnessed by my Dad) was celebrated in characteristically nonchalant fashion even though it, couple with a gutsy 79 in the first innings when all was carnage very nearly set up an unlikely win for his adopted country.
I was the nerdy, speccy kid at school, a cricket fanatic who could furnish you with useless information such as the fact that Bob, along with fellow South African Tony Greig, wielded willow made by St. Peter, and was renown for wearing odd looking gloves and to this day cricket is my number one sport.
It was his association with Greig and the Packer Circus that did for Woolmer on the Test stage. He was a genuine all rounder (420 first class scalps at 25.87) and he scored three Test hundreds in only 19 games, a very respectable return. But the Establishment had his card marked, and he only played at the highest level sporadically and when there was no one else the selectors could turn to at first drop. He was the player to pay the price when Botham’s England went one nil down in 1981 as Brearley was brought back and someone had to make way.
Thus he missed out on the antics of ’81, whilst the chronically out of touch Boycott and Gooch were retained but his County colleague Chris Tavare was the main beneficiary and sales of sleeping pills crashed when he was at the crease. Never something that Woolmer could be accused of when his classical off drive was unveiled.
Bob was that all too rare example in International Sport where not one single person ever had a bad word to say about him due to his perspective of the importance of sport in life allied to the ability to forgive, no matter what the sleight, or reason for cross words.
His behaviour in August 2006 over the ball tampering row was dignity personified. He defended his lads whilst doing much to diffuse the explosive situation, ensuring nothing hasty or un retractable was said in public either by Inzzy or his bowlers who must have been totally incensed, with good justification.
Is it right for the Tournament to go on? Absolutely yes, but the frantic and salacious speculation just adds to the squalid way in which the life of a true gentleman was brought to an end, and it should stop now if only for the sake of his family.