Death By Cricket

In this increasingly complex and globalized world, where we have Swedish furniture, Japanese steaks, and British jazz singers, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that an Indian-born Briton who played cricket in South Africa and coached the Pakistan team was murdered in Jamaica. Clue never had this.

Bob Woolmer was the coach of the Pakistan cricket team. After losing rather unexpectedly to Ireland at the Cricket World Cup being held in the West Indies, he was found rather unexpectedly dead in his hotel room in Jamaica. Unfortunately, this seemed to become an insurmountable obstacle to his developing career.

The intertwining global loyalties sound complicated, and, in a way, it is. I’ve seen Japanese game shows with less bewildering complexity. It’s got more drama than such famous gruesome murder cases such as O.J. Simpson, Jon-Benet Ramsey, or Sanjaya Malakar’s version of “You Really Got Me.” It’s got more twists than the ending of an M. Night Shyamalan film and Snoop Dogg’s visa application combined. (See how globalizingly progressive I am with my pop culture references?) But, as murder cases go, this one looks like it may stay under the radar of the American press unless an eight-year-old blonde girl somehow gets involved.

There are probably not too terribly many people in America who have heard of Bob Woolmer or have seen too many reports of his death. I certainly know I hadn’t, what with my subscription to People You Don’t Really Care That Much About and Would Never Have Heard About Under Any Other Circumstances Anyway Weekly lapsing. But while I’m vaguely aware of the massively colonial popularity of cricket, I’ll be the first to admit that it is a singularly confusing game, much more complex than the blue lines on hockey, the passer rating formula in football, or, well, the murder of Bob Woolmer.

Perhaps I underestimate myself a little bit. The central concept of cricket is a largely simple affair, at least when compared to other sports of a similar type. Like most competitive sports, it involves overpaid entitlement farmers with insecurity complexes batting a small round object around for a few hours a week for about five months out of the year. What I find most confusing, though, is that the entire concept of cricket is based around the thought of, “Hey, you know, baseball is boring and all, but…do you think there’s a way we could make it even more incredibly dull?”

(Sports historians may point out that cricket was invented before baseball, a point that I would like to advise is “culturally relative,” by which I mean that I have lied, plus that it hardly makes my point any less true.)

Tying cricket to a murder is perhaps a rather drastic way to excite up the game, since, like baseball, cricket is one part exciting physical drama and eighteen hundred parts guys standing around in drab uniforms staring at nothing in particular and scratching themselves. (Obligatory joke: and that’s just the fans!) That perhaps wouldn’t be so bad if commercial breaks, graphics with incredibly esoteric statistics, and color commentary could fill in the numerous gaps, but cricket games also have the distinction of being much, much longer than most entire sports seasons. For example, the first game of cricket is widely believed to have started in 1550 AD and has yet to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

But back to poor Bob Woolmer. Much of the information of the case is being taken from the Jamaican Gleaner, a rather comical name for a newspaper based in a country not exactly known for its judicious fact-finding aptitude. And calling your newspaper the Gleaner is kind of like calling your cricket team The Pakistan Cricket Players. Perhaps all of that latent creativity went to those rasta hats and inventing ways to sell “Jamaica” window decals with a “surprise” taped in a sandwich bag to the back of it.

There are many theories for the cause of death for Woolmer. The Jamaican-led investigation points to the fact that he was strangled and is currently classified as a homicide investigation, though to be fair the phrase “Jamaican investigation” is roughly equivalent to “Bahamian marriage,” so take that for what’s it’s worth. The only popular theory is that is it a gambling-related murder, since the only other crime associated with organized cricket is killing precious days of everyone’s lives. Then again, murder in Jamaica is just about as common as booths selling T-Shirts proudly proclaiming “Jamaican Me Crazy!”, so it hasn’t been completely ruled out as a random hit.

Still, there are enough doubts that no one is certain what is going on. Not an unusual state of affairs in Jamaica, I’m afraid. Woolmer had complained about a myriad of medical ailments before he died, though this is of dubious value since asphyxiation is rarely a symptom of Type II diabetes. And family members have attributed stress and breathing difficulties to a possible medical verdict. But it’s enough that, regardless of which way the investigation goes at this point, the Jamaican police forces, the media, and supportive citizens will not rest until the answers have been found. Or 4:20, whichever comes first.

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