Bob Woolmer’s new book steers clear of match-fixing

The late cricket coach’s much-awaited new book, believed to be the reason for his mysterious death, is a simple coaching manual with no controversial content

Late South Africa and Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer’s tell-all book on cricket touches every aspect of the game barring two dreaded words: betting and fixing. In his soon-to-bereleased book Art and Science of Cricket, these two words do not occur even once through the 650 pages.
This will come as a huge disappointment to the eagerly-waiting readers who might be thinking that his book would be an expose on the murky world of match-fixing and behind-the-scenes misdeeds of players who act at the behest of bookies.
It was believed the book might even have cost him his life. The book is an outand-out cricket manual for coaches and serious students of the game. It deals with the techniques of batting, bowling and fielding.
It also has sub-sections on personalities like Don Bradman, Shane Warne and Gary Kirsten, the new India coach.
It throws light on issues like ball-tampering, sledging, reverse swing, racial tensions, cricket relations between hostile India and Pakistan; almost every conceivable issue barring the ones in question.
The co-authors of the book, Timothy Noakes and Helen Moffett, do not discuss the events leading up to Woolmer’s death at all. They simply state: ‘‘Bob Woolmer began his life with a cricket bat in his crib (in a Kanpur hospital); and he died in the service of cricket, on March 18, 2007, at the Cricket World Cup in West Indies.
His sudden death, most probably of heart failure, caused a cloud of speculation and confusion that for a few months threatened to veil Bob’s gigantic contribution to the game. The book serves as his legacy.’’
Woolmer may never have had any intention of exposing any wrong-doings by Pakistan players in this book. He just wanted to put forth his modern coaching and training methods.
He writes: ‘‘I have written and rewritten chapters because my own coaching style has had to change with each role that I have undertaken. It has become extremely clear that there is no right or wrong way to play or teach this game. Inevitably, it is the player who will shape his own destiny either as player or coach. There can be no cloning in cricket.’’ At one point, Woolmer writes:
‘‘Cricket is glittering dream to some, and a source of bitter disappointment to much greater majority. Those to whom it remains a gentle and gentlemanly game played in white on the village green might be shocked to know of the dizzying hope and heartbreak the game can engender.’’
The book may be as mundane as MCC’s guide to cricket or Bradman’s own Art of Cricket, considered the bible of cricket coaching. But still it has nuggets of information which will interest a general reader.
Woolmer’s take on...
‘ISLAMIC’ REVERSE SWING: Reverse swing has always struggled to shake off its reputation as a somehow devious or underhand tactic. Acrimonious debate is still being fuelled by the latent suspicion that reversing the ball is the preserve of cheats.
To make matters worse, these suspicions sometimes appear to have racist overtones. As only a very scuffed ball, and one that has been constantly polished on one side, can reverse, Pakistan provides ideal conditions for the phenomenon to emerge.
But it didn’t help that the only Islamic Test-playing nation at the time was the one that introduced reverse swing so spectacularly. Hardliners like Ian Botham still insist that for a side to collapse from 250/2 to 280 all out, someone has to be cheating. The scene was thus set for racial stereotyping that persists to this day, as reflected in the brouhaha over umpire Darryl Hair’s declaration that the Pakistan side tampered with the ball during a Test Match with England in August 2006, (which at that time was awarded to the home team as the Pakistan team refused to come back onto the field).
However, one can’t ignore the fact that many teams do tamper with the ball, speeding up the natural roughening process so that it can start reverse swinging.
SLEDGING: Sledging has one tactical purpose: to disrupt the concentration of the batsman, and to rile him into making a mistake. Whatever your opinion of the use of aggressive — and often foul — language, the fact is that sledging is here to stay and players need to know how to deal with it.
He has two suggestions for cricketers: 1. Never ever dish it out if you can’t take it and 2. Never get personal or ugly.
HOW TO BE A HAPPY TOURIST: It is not a bad idea to learn a little about the countries marked for touring, learning basic greeting and courtesies in local language is always appreciated. By all means, interact with locals, but never assume that your status as a visiting athlete gives you the right to flout laws or religious or cultural norms.