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Cops confirm what the world had been saying

A World Cup could be memorable for many reasons, but not for something such as this, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhya.

cricket Updated: Mar 24, 2007 04:16 IST

A World Cup could be memorable for many reasons, but not for something such as this. Hardly a week into it, Pakistan were out and barely a day after that, their coach was no more. As if to affirm that nothing would be like what it should be, it was announced on Thursday that Bob Woolmer was murdered, brutally, in his hotel room.

It was probably rather too early to fathom how big a shadow it could cast on the game and its most prized event being held in the land of unlimited charms and exotic surroundings. Cricket, as the ICC and the organisers said just after the shocking statement from the police, would continue, begging the question how?

In a game tarnished long ago by allegations and suspensions of national captains because of their association with bookmakers, there could not have been a more bitter blow than the coach of an under-performing team being strangled to death in a place that is supposed to be guarded like a fortress. This in a city where spectators were successfully prevented from carrying lighters or matchboxes to the stadium on grounds of security!

Hotel Pegasus, where the Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe teams had been put up, is a place that would entice many because of its glitzy exterior and interiors. It also maintains the decorum of handing its guests the cards that enable them to use the elevators, which an outsider cannot use unless he or she is accompanied by a hotel guest.

The police announced in precise and even tones that Woolmer was overpowered without any trace of resistance, most probably by person or persons he knew. They also showed the humbleness of appealing to the public to come up with whatever clues they might have on the identity of the murderer.

Deputy commissioner of police Mark Shields was asked whether it was not being too naïve in appealing to the public to identify a murderer when law had failed to do so, but he insisted such calls often fetch the desired results.

“If it does not work, we will apply all the possible force,” Shields said.

Some bravado after letting the untoward happen, and there was more. “We did not come up with this because we wanted to show professional respect (as in letting the announcement wait till Pakistan had played their last match), but we think we are ahead of the game at this moment.”

There have been no arrests and, for obvious reasons, no admission of suspecting anybody.

There were bound to be questions that if it was a case of strangulation, why did it take the doctors who performed the post mortem so long to come to a conclusion. And why were the media and all others concerned made to believe that toxicological and histological tests were required.

“We had to be absolutely sure before confirming anything,” Shields reasoned.

The answer was smart but left room for more questions. What about those who used to hang around the Pakistan team and had nothing to do with it all these days? Their fingerprints were not taken. And what about those who might have left Jamaica right after the day of the crime? Shields fluttered for a second before saying that “all eventualities have been taken care of”.

There could not have been anything better had it been in force before. It is evident that not everything was taken care of despite claims that all possible media of communication Woolmer could have used on Saturday night or the following morning – including cellular phone, e-mail and room telephone – were being monitored and kept track of.

Otherwise, it would not have been difficult to at least ascertain who were the ones to have reached the floor Woolmer was in and then grill them one by one to find out who was there and doing what. In spite of all their external smartness, the police here have hardly acted impressively.

Whether the game recovers at all from this blow will in many ways depend on how promptly they start looking different.

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