World Cup 2007 March 18, 2007

The tragedy of Bob Woolmer

Bob Woolmer's death is an utter shock

Bob Woolmer's death is an utter shock. He was a thoroughly decent man who wanted the best for Pakistan cricket and its talented players. I had utmost respect for Bob's dedication to Pakistan cricket and never doubted his desire for the team to succeed. Ultimately he failed. Much of that was to do with the failures of the Pakistan system and the domineering approach of Inzamam. Some of the responsibility did rest with Bob, and he knew it.

At the end of Pakistan's tour to England he promised me that he would do more to assert his ideas upon the team's strategy. But within days Pakistan cricket was in turmoil. A new captain, a new board chairman, and a new feel to Pakistan cricket. I'm not sure Bob ever recovered his poise after that but his commitment to the cause meant that he stuck with it. I am shocked and distraught at Bob's loss to world cricket, and feel great sadness for his family who he always spoke of fondly. He may not have succeeded in the way that he wished with Pakistan but he was brave enough to take on an almost impossible job.

Some readers have rebuked me for criticising Bob in my open letter. To my mind, that's an insult to Bob's intelligence. He was a media man. He understood how the media works. He expected criticism and responded well to it. He was robust enough to challenge his critics, and would take them on directly. He expected me to call it as I see it and would give his honest views in return. We had a great professional relationship because we both wanted the same thing: Pakistan to succeed. If I thought it was time for Bob to go he would have expected me to tell him, although of course he may have disagreed. That is a measure of the man, a thinker, a debater, and an innovator.

My last exchange with Bob occurred before Pakistan's match against Ireland. He was cautiously optimistic. I asked him whether Pakistan could win the cup. He said: "Inshallah, to quote the team."

I then asked him if he would soon be compliant with the Urdu-only policy and he replied: "What sort of rubbish is that [policy] it was mainly instituted to allow those poor in English to express themselves now it has taken on a very different turn. I will have to brush up on my Urdu quickly - Gurrum Chai do chini!"

In many ways the skill of Bob Woolmer was wasted on Pakistan cricket and many millions of Pakistan cricket fans around the world are grateful to him for taking up the challenge.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here