Bob Woolmer and Pakistan Cricket: An Underachieving Combination

February 22, 2007
Zainub Razvi

One of the characteristics of Woolmer's reign as Pakistan Coach is how, despite the losses the team has suffered under him, the Pakistan Cricket Board has somehow so far resisted the temptation to take the horses for courses reactions it is famous of taking. Time now though, appears to be running out.

This was a liberty other Pakistan coaches, particularly those coming from within the country, did not enjoy. Woolmer's own predecessor and one of his most vehement critics, Javed Miandad himself, for instance, was sacked immediately after the team lost both the one-day and test series against India in their breakthrough tour to Pakistan in 2004.

When Woolmer first came in, there was some amount of skepticism in the Pakistani press and amongst ex players about the possible effects he would have, but Pakistan fans, generally, it seemed back then, at least from some of the scores of emails that come to his website, were willing to give him a chance before writing him off. It was a very promising start.

As time has passed on though, people's patience has been running out fast. The 'foreigner', 'over-paid', 'lap-top coach' tag is now brought out more than ever, and it seems inevitable that following the World Cup, the PCB may not renew his contract.

Barring one or two things, like Woolmer's fondness for all-rounders that aren't quite up to it, and his and Inzi's 'safety first' approach, I have a lot of respect for Woolmer as a coach, and often, I can't help but feel sympathy for him for how he's been treated by our ex-players and sections of the national press.

Effigies are burned, protests done whenever we lose, pretty much every thing is blamed on the coach, what should be confidential details of his contract and earnings are lashed out on and commented by all and sundry. Yet when we win, hardly ever do you see any credit coming his way.

Consider this report for instance, it documents information from Talat Ali's managerial report on the ill-fated tour of South Africa, which confirms the altercation between Woolmer and Shoaib on Day two of the 2nd test, but denies Woolmer having racially abused Shoaib Akhtar.

Woolmer's own tour report, the report says, has also discussed the Shoaib incident in depth and categorically denied he abused Shoaib Akhtar in a racial way. The newspapers' own sources have also added that Saleem Altaf, director cricket operations of the PCB, had a verbal confrontation with Woolmer during one of the team meetings, where he reportedly told Woolmer that he "had worked no wonders for the team".

The same source has also speculated that Naseem Ashraf has denied a request by Woolmer to install the Hawk Eye software package for the team, despite Woolmer having presented an extensive presentation on it highlighting the possible benefits it could bring to the team. The reason it says, was that, the CEO, was unhappy the coach didn't make a case for it earlier and also since it was costing around 30,000 per year.

Without wanting to comment on the specifics, it is getting more and more obvious since Waqar Younus was sacked from his position of bowling coach, and Grant Compton, the trainer for the PCB academy and national side, resigned, that the board's relationship with Woolmer too is now deteriorating and if we don't do well in the World Cup, neither the PCB nor Woolmer himself might want to continue the partnership any further.

Different people have different takes on what Woolmer has brought to Pakistan Cricket, some people simply refuse to seeing anything beyond his salary and technology oriented methods, always pointing out the fact that he isn't Pakistani, but such criticism often reflects underlying prejudices in some of Pakistan's ex-test greats, and I try and distance myself from sounding like them.

For me personally, if Woolmer goes after the World Cup, and we haven't, God forbid, done that well in it either, the biggest disappointment will not be that individual performances of the team or separate sections of the side - such as the opening or the fielding - did not show as much improvement as one would have hoped, but the fact that over all, Pakistan Cricket and Woolmer himself, and both collectively did not benefit from each other as much as they could have.

Talent never has been an issue in Pakistan Cricket, but it is the professionalism that has always eluded us. When we hired Woolmer I had a handful of expectations in this regard from both Woolmer himself, the PCB board that hired him, and our own fans and press that would constantly judge him over time.

For Woolmer, I hoped that he would be able to bring here in Pakistan some if not all of that ruthlessness and professionalism that were the hallmark of his previous highly successful coaching stints with Worcestershire County Cricket Club and South Africa.

For the PCB, I hoped that they'd give Woolmer the time and resources he'd need for this monumental task, and for ourselves, the on-lookers and followers of the game in this country, I hoped, that we would learn not to judge Woolmer on his nationality or salary but on what he brought to cricket in this country.

Alas, it seems all three of us have failed at our own individual levels, and the biggest loser of course, has sadly been, Pakistan Cricket itself.

Zainub is an opinionated dreamer, intermittent blogger, massive sports fan and aspiring journalist recently liberated from studying boring dentistry. She blogs at Kaleidoscope, freelances for Spider and Sci-Tech World both part of the Dawn media group, and also writes at ezines Desicritics and Chowk. She is currently majoring in General History and minoring in International Relations and Mass Media Communications/Journalism at the University of Karachi.
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Bob Woolmer and Pakistan Cricket: An Underachieving Combination


Author: Zainub Razvi


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February 22, 2007
11:10 AM


what ails pakistan cricket is much worse than the coach

it is the PCB!

more specifically the ad-hocism that prevails and afflicts it

nasim ashraf is a mushy crony - enough said?

then there is the promised but unimplemented PCB charter

decisions are made arbitrarily

no real management

individual and raw talent needs professional management - that is the crux

February 22, 2007
11:28 AM

You're right temporal, the ad-hocism is really doing us no goods, and real professionalism might not come just by a coach. Then again, that ad-hocism is not the only problem ...so many of the national team's problems for instance, the poor fielding and fitness standards, the opening problem, the running between the wickets - these are all these because of the poor structure of the game at the first class level, then again, the only people who we can blame for that too are the PCB, so I guess in the end you really said it spot on. But in a country where the army of chief has unilaterally got his self to be the head of state for five years and in that process played around with the constitution at free will, expecting the cricket authorities to restore its own constitution may well be too far fetched dream. Sigh.

February 22, 2007
05:51 PM

I totally agree on the voes of the Pakistani but there is a lot more to it than an incompetent coach. Interestingly, South Africa were boosted by Bob Woolmer and Pakistan could not capitalize on a wonderful opportunity. What is the coach's fault if two of your main players are tested positive for banned substance or the team becomes the first to forfeit a test match?

I agree that Bob's stint was not the best for Pakistan cricket but neither was it the worst. Considering the impact he had on the likes of Yousaf, Younis, Asif and Shoaib Malik during this time can not be forgotten. Also, barring the last month or two, Kamran Akmal has become the star performer. There is only a little a coach can do.

I think that in order to solve the issues of the team in the long run, we need more stints from people like Woolmer and Waqar Younis. We need to spend money in technology and educate the players. Look at people like Dravid, they are both educated individuals and their decision-making reflects that fact.

March 8, 2007
09:44 AM

After World Cup 2003, the rebuilding process was initiated by Amer Sohail, the then paid Chief Selector.He brought in new players like Hafeez, Yaser Hameed, Kamran Akmal, Imran Farat, Asim Kamal, Umer Gul, Salman Butt etc. Soon this selection team was dissolved when the New chairman stepped in.Rahid Rasheed was removed from captaincy in the most unceremonious manner and in came the Woolmer-Inzi Combination.

All they and the new selection team did consistently was to shuffle, opt in and opt out players for four years. More than Woolmer, the team became Inzi-centric.

This is the biggest contribution of this Woolmer-Inzi nexus.

A coach as popular as Woolmer must speak out.

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