Woolmer admits responsibility for drug tests
Younis Khan, the Pakistan captain, and Bob Woolmer, their coach, have admitted that they were "very disappointed" with the events that led to a couple of their players testing positive for banned substances, adding that they would have to accept part of the responsibility for the same.
Both refused to divulge too many details but said that the team couldn't afford to be bogged down by this setback, especially before their crucial Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka tomorrow in Jaipur. Younis, while denying speculation about a third player coming under the scanner, admitted that the news had come as a jolt but hoped that his team could pick themselves up and raise their game in tomorrow's clash.
Interestingly it was Woolmer who'd mooted the idea of testing players for drugs - when the ICC officially instituted random dope tests for the Champions Trophy. "I instituted the idea of having our players tested for drugs to try and obviate anything that might happen at a particular venue or tournament," he told the media in Jaipur. "So we asked the medical panel to give the players drug tests - which they did at the end of September. So I take responsibility for that.
"This is the first time that drug testing is officially instituted by the ICC," he continued. "Therefore we thought we'll pre-empt that by having to see what the players were doing. In a coach's life, you prepare. The team plays on the field, but you try to prepare the team. You try and make the environment to the best it can be, you try and give the players the best opportunity you can. So what we need to do is to test our players - in fact 25 players were tested - and unfortunately, the timing was not right, but there we are. If it's going to happen, it happens."
However, he refused to be drawn into discussion about the exact reason behind the players taking banned substances. "I've been involved with Professor Tim Noakes at the Sports Science Institute in Cape Town on these particular issues," he continued, "and I do understand what happens. The important thing is that the Pakistan Cricket Board will make a statement and let's leave it at that for now."
Younis, who clarified that the delay in sending the results of the tests meant the news broke on the eve of their first game, echoed the same viewpoint. "In today's situation, players take any small thing and it turns out to be a banned substance," he said. "It's all our responsibility - players, management. Hopefully it won't happen again."
For a team that's been shrouded in controversy over the last three months, the Champions Trophy couldn't have got off to a more inauspicious start. Yet, Woolmer had no doubt that they would "rise to the challenge".
"We haven't discussed this as a team yet as the events have happened very quickly from yesterday to this morning," Woolmer reflected. "We will be sitting down with the team this evening and will chat it through. I'm pretty confident that the team will take any adversity in their stride and they'll rise to the occasion and play good cricket tomorrow. We have to put these issues behind us, as we have with all the other issues and get on with playing cricket, because that's our job, that's what we're paid to do and that's what we have to do. We'll make it very clear that we're going to go out there and fight very hard. It's very important for us to try and gain two points against Sri Lanka tomorrow."
It's been a tough few months for Woolmer, who's had to experience considerable turbulence as the Pakistan coach. He admitted that it was a unique journey - when asked if he thought about quitting the job - adding that his love for the game was keeping him going. "There are a lot of things that go through your mind when these things happen," he explained emotionally. "One thing that holds me is that I love the game of cricket. I'll be more excited tomorrow to get on the field and play some cricket. I will be honest - I haven't come across anything like this in my life, it will be a wonderful experience for me, it is a wonderful experience for me. It's difficult to understand why it's happening but it is happening, and therefore I have to deal with it as it happens. But I enjoy cricket, I love cricket and cricket is my first passion and only passion. I do this job because of that reason so whatever happens, happens."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo