DateLine: 18th March 2009
Pakistan captain Younus Khan spoke on Wednesday of how he would never forget Bob Woolmer, as the cricket world marked the second anniversary of the former national team coach's death.
Woolmer, who had been a Test batsman for England, took Pakistan to the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies but died prematurely in shocking circumstances during the tournament.
"I can never forget Bob, with his sincere and untiring efforts he could have lifted Pakistan cricket to top level," said Younus.
Woolmer, 58, was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica on March 18, 2007, one day after Pakistan was sensationally knocked out of the World Cup following a shock defeat to outsiders Ireland.
Pakistani players came under intense investigation when Woolmer's death was initially treated as murder.
Some commentators insist Woolmer was killed to stop him blowing the whistle on illegal betting, the curse of the game in Asia. But after a detailed inquiry Jamaican police declared Woolmer died of natural causes.
The anniversary comes as Pakistani cricket remains in disarray following the March 3 ambush of the Sri Lankan team bus by armed militants in Lahore, when eight people died.
Younus said Woolmer had been dedicated to improving the Pakistan team.
"He (Woolmer) would introduce new things to the players and every time he used to come from abroad he had a new thing with him so that our players could adapt to innovations.
"I am sure that had he been with us we would have improved a great deal. Bob was a very good coach but his tragic death left us shattered and stranded," said Younus, who took over as captain last month.
So devastated was Younus after Woolmer's death and Pakistan's humiliating defeat that he refused to take the captaincy when Inzamam-ul Haq stepped down and retired from one-day cricket after team's failed Cup campaign.
"The tragic loss of a beloved coach combined with the shock defeat and then a frightening investigation left us stunned, so it took us some time to recover," said Younus.
Younus said Woolmer played a big role in his comeback after he was kicked out of the team in 2003.
"Bob used to encourage me a lot. I was out of the team in 2003 and he helped me get my place back and when I was back in the team, I hit a hundred against Sri Lanka in Karachi," recalled Younus.
Woolmer, also a former South African coach, joined Pakistan in 2004 in a period of turmoil following one-day and Test defeats against arch rivals India which led to the axing of Javed Miandad as coach.
For two years and 10 months, Woolmer endeavoured to build a working relationship with the team and, more importantly, with the management who had dismissed several coaches and captains on poor results.
Under him, Pakistan levelled their two-Test home series against Sri Lanka before Australia thrashed them 3-0.
The turning point came when Pakistan beat Ashes-winning England 2-0 on home soil after squaring Test series in India and the West Indies in 2005, and then beating India at home and Sri Lanka away in 2006.
Former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Nasim Ashraf said Woolmer had worked for to improve Pakistan cricket.
"We gave full support to Bob and he delivered for us. Sadly his death left his work incomplete. We thought he would lift the team to greater heights. The World Cup results were shocking for everyone, including Bob," said Ashraf.
To honour Woolmer, the Ashraf-led PCB dedicated their indoor cricket school at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, which was inaugurated by the Pakistan and South African teams in October 2007, to their late coach.
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)
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