The Woolmer case on Panorama tonight

Panorama, and its’ authoritatively grand theme tune, is covering Woolmer-gate tonight, on BBC1 at 20.30. For those of you who don’t live in the UK, tough bobbins. In fact, if you’re not living in God’s Own Country, you probably haven’t seen this either. You should.

Sport’s glorious futility

No, there is little to be gained by cancelling. Indeed, surely the whole point of sport is to act as a necessary counterpoint to the grim realities of life. We know that death is a part of life because we see it, in one form or another, every day. Like drugs and alcohol, sport provides an escape from the routine absurdity of everyday existence – and thankfully without any of the side effects.

It gives us the chance to experience the best that life has to offer, usually without serious consequences. We win, we lose, and then we go home and get on with life.

We submit to sport’s arcane rules and regulations and rituals. We recognise that we will need to show courage and skill, and we train hard for the event knowing that we are undertaking an ultimately futile task. It is this futility that explains sport’s universal appeal, that and the desire to satisfy a basic human urge to play.

Sport loses its appeal when it is invested with fake importance. This is why English football engenders scant respect: the managers who snarl and spit at players and officials from the sidelines; the players who confuse competitiveness with sometimes vicious intent; and the supporters who cannot cope with the fact that in sport there must nearly always be a loser.

They have all clearly forgotten that Bill Shankly had his tongue firmly planted in his Scottish cheek when he said that football was more important than life or death.

Sport is not more important. And it won’t help to bring Woolmer back, but it might help us to cope.

One of the most insightful, and certainly the most reasoned and balanced article that I’ve read so far on the Woolmer murder and why cricket must go on. But it also re-enforces the often forgotten notion that cricket is a game. Predictably, it’s by Atherton, and it’s a superb read.

India vs Sri Lanka, West Indies vs Ireland

India go out of the 2007 World Cup if they don’t win tonight’s fixture against Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the Super 8′s start early, with West Indies and Ireland having already qualified in their group; the winner gets a flying start in the main section of the tournament.

I’ll be blunt though and say that my enthusiasm for the 2007 World Cup has been diminished by the tragic murder of Bob Woolmer. It was bad enough when I heard that the house of Mahendra Singh Dhoni had been burnt down by demented Indian fans, and it was made much worse when I heard that Woolmer had died. But murder? The Aussie Rules season starts next weekend, and I’ll probably pay attention to that more then the cricket. Footy players get pretty badly bruised from time to time, but they don’t get murdered for their efforts.

How about you? Is cynicism overwhelming your enjoyment of the cricket?

Bob Woolmer was murdered

Bob Woolmer was murdered last Sunday and died of asphyxia by manual strangulation, Jamaica police have confirmed.

A crushing revelation. The death was shocking enough – but murder? Full coverage of this dreadful news at Cricinfo.

RIP Bob Woolmer

Update: he was murdered

Tragedy has struck the 2007 World Cup with the death today of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer. Woolmer was famous for his coaching roles but he was a doughty Test player in his own right, standing up to the powerful Australian bowling attacks of the 1970s. Cricinfo have put up an obituary.

Egad, an Englishman coaching England? I’ve a better idea

Bob Woolmer has admitted an interest in the England job, and Allan Donald has come out in support of his application. Donald is well qualified to talk about Woolmer given their long association both for Warwickshire and South Africa. And Woolmer’s track record for South Africa and Pakistan speak for themselves. Pakistan is a reasonable chance of challenging for the 2007 World Cup, and have just leveled the current series in South Africa.

But here’s a thought out of left field. Maybe Australia should try to poach him first. There’s absolutely no reason why an Englishman can’t have a leading role in Australian cricket. And there’s no doubt that from a professional point of view, coaching the best side in the world would be a new experience.

I’m not saying that Australia should definately go down that path. But I think it is an idea that merits some consideration, as well.

Bob Woolmer’s blog

Bob Woolmer is blogging for us (or for him, I should say) at Cricinfo. Visit Bob’s World.

Cricket is a great game to play and a fun one to comment on. I would like my blog to reflect the views of the playing and coaching fraternity and I will try and cover as many topics as possible. Including Pakistan, drugs in sport, modern training methods for cricketers, the itineraries that put players in the red zone as far as injuries are concerned and to explain the many myths that surround cricketing technique.

Those of you who wish to know more about this game and want to voice their opinion are most welcome to let me know what you are thinking. I will try and address these issues as well as others that occur.

Let’s get “stuck” into the first one!

Eng v Pak, 1st Test, Lord’s

Tomorrow’s first Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s promising to be absolutely fascinating. The weather is set fair (possible thunderstorms at weekend but nothing major) and though both sides are afflicted by injuries, there will no let-up of excitement.

Pakistan and England flags waved by a Pakistani supporter

It is often said Pakistan are the most talented cricketing nation in the world. This was no truer than in the 1980s and 90s when, with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis terrorising batsmen’s toes with their ferocious yorkers, and batsmen such as Saeed Anwar played with the most elasticsed wrists, they were a formidable outfit.

But it is Bob Woolmer who has transformed them from a team with explosive potential (the very ethos of Pakistani cricket) to one playing with greater responsibility and consistency. They are a fine, fine side and will be a treat to watch. The other day, Woolmer compared Inzamam-ul-Haq, his captain, to Hansie Cronje who he coached with such success in the 1990s. Like Cronje, Inzamam – that most laconic, almost regal of characters – is respected and adored by his troops.

Woolmer’s not to everyone’s tastes, but he is the most flexible, willing of coaches; indeed it is he who has helped nurture the importance of religion to the team: they all pray together, formally.

Beware Pakistan, England. And likewise Pakistan, watch out for a resurgant England. Trapped and caged by injuries and uncertainty in recent weeks, they are hurting. Nothing less than 100% will be acceptable at Lord’s; more so for England it is vital they win the first Test if they’re to prevent a trampling by Pakistan.

I’m on ball-by-ball at Cricinfo tomorrow along with Jenny (scorecard here) so perhaps you can let us know how we’re doing in the match “post” thread thing, here at the CoU, which will appear tomorrow morning before play.

Rock on.

The Pakistan tour of England, 2006

Earlier this summer, as England were apparently unable to beat Sri Lanka as easily as they would’ve liked, I described their opponents as “cockroach-like”. It was intended as a compliment, for their ability to hang on by the skins of their teeth. In retrospect, it was a mistake and was altered immediately. The fact is, I – and England, and the public – underestimated the side who were considered nothing more than an hors d’oeuvres before the Pakistan pie (sorry, couldn’t resist).

And look at them now. The one-day team is in disarray; Fletcher’s blaming injuries (quite fairly so, I might add); our Ashes plans are in meltdown (burnout might be a more appropriate adjective to use come November, though); half the squad are missing injured (career-endingly so and “he’ll be back next week” in equal measure, if the ECB are to be trusted). And now Pakistan are in town.

Their apparent weak-spot at the top of the order showed little sign of fragility today, too. Imran Farhat and Salman Butt, the two openers, put on 145 for the first wicket on the second day of their three-day warm-up match against Leicestershire. When the first Test gets underway (July 13), behind those two sit a frightening array of batting talent: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal.

So forget the Ashes. Forget anything else. Wistful longing for a repeat of Edgbaston 2005 will get you nowhere. This Pakistan side are a tremendous force, superbly coached and (dare I say it?) captained with enthusiastic vigour by the bearded mountain himself. I’m tempted to say England are in trouble – but that’d be stating the bleeding obvious.

Marks on Woolmer in Pakistan

Morning everyone!

Not much in the UK papers, though Vic Marks writes a good profile of Bob Woolmer’s adventures in Pakistan. For me the really interesting thing is that he’s getting Shahid Afridi to start to deliver on a consistent basis. The guy is a lot like Andrew Symonds, a remarkable talent, but not properly focussed. Until now, anyway.