Robert Andrew Woolmer Biography
Robert Andrew Woolmer, popularly known as ‘Bob Woolmer’ has many reasons to be remembered in the arena of the cricket. He was a world class cricketer, a very renowned coach and a professional commentator.
Born in independent India in 1948, Bob was the son of Clarence Woolmer, a former English cricketer. Bob did his schooling in Kent and is associated with cricket from the cradle. The leadership qualities in him was evident from his childhood and he soon rose to the position of captain and later to the coach of Kent second XI.
He was hailed as a promising all-rounder, and the only argument about Woolmer's cricketing ability and future in the game, was whether he might become a better bowler than batsman or vice versa.
Bob made his senior debut against Essex at the age of 20, but won his county cap only a year later. Ability to move the ball at medium pace and utter sharp batting skills were some of the best bets in his arsenal.
At the age of just 22, Woolmer began coaching other youngsters in South Africa. And by 1975, when he made his international Test debut, he had become a teacher of physical education at a prep school in Kent as well as running his own cricket school.
He had a boastful first-class career, claiming 420 wickets and amassing 15,772 runs, including his personal best of 203 in 350 matches. In List-A career, he made 4078 runs and took 374 wickets in 290 matches.
In 1972, ‘Woollie’ got selected for the English ODI team against the Australians. He impressed in the debut match with him taking three valuable wickets as the England cruised to victory.
He made his Test debut in the home series against Australia in 1975. His valuable 33 and 31 in the two innings at lower order helped hosts to draw the otherwise difficult match.
Rise to Glory
Bob was first picked as a bowling all-rounder for his debut, batting at eight, he was number five within a month, after his epic marathon innings against Australia. He emerged as a lone warrior in the 4th Test against Australia in London. The knock of 149 was truly a class apart but the match ended as a draw. Batting success further followed over the next two seasons, including two splendid centuries against Australia in Ashes 1977.
Woolmer played a total of 19 Tests and 6 ODIs, made a total of 1080 runs and took 13 international wickets for his nation.
Woolmer's international career stalled after he joined the World Series break-away group run by Kerry Packer. Though he appeared intermittently in the Test team up to 1981, he never recaptured the form which he possessed in the mid-1970s.
He bid adieu to the larger format of game on 2 July 1981. His last ODI was against West Indies on 28 August 1976.
As a Coach
His coaching deeds received recognition when Warwickshire waged a fantastic run from 1991 to 1994. This success led to international opportunities, and his adopted home of South Africa appointed him as coach in 1994.
Bob was seen as one of the first coaches to use of video analysis and computers as a formal coaching aid. With Hansie Cronje as the Proteas’ captain, Woolmer oversaw a very successful period for South Africa, with a 73%-win ratio in ODIs. His contract with South Africa ended after the 1999 ICC World Cup debacle.
He was hired as a coach by Pakistan in 2004 when the team was undergoing thins after series loss on home soil to arch rivals India. It was his dedication that Pakistan reversed the result in early 2005 on their return tour to India, drawing the Tests 1–1 and winning the ODI series 4–2.
Pak’s flying colours continued in the home soil as they defeated mighty England and India. Woolmer's side then beat Sri Lanka 2–0 in a three match ODI series and achieved a 3rd consecutive Test series win with a 1–0 win in a two match test series against Sri Lanka.
Posthumously, he was honoured with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz, a high ranking civil award, for his contribution to Pakistan cricket.
Despite of having solid stats in First Class and List-A cricket, he failed to reflect the same in his international. As a all-rounder, he was always in a dilemma of sharpening his batting or bowling skills and it was evident from his performances.
In 2006, the then Woolmer’s coached team, South Africa, was accused of ball-tampering in 1997 by ICC’s former referee. However, Bob denied all such allegations.
On 18 March 2007 – the day after Pakistan was knocked out of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, and three days before their final game of the tournament – Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica. Woolmer's death became a macabre worldwide sensation but the cause was never cleared and it is still in ambiguity that his death was a criminal conspiracy or a natural death.