Lahore: Bob Woolmer was in his “office-cum-residence” at the Academy here, in the lead-up to the series versus England, when Shoaib Akhtar knocked. The Pakistan coach asked him to come in and the first meaningful steps towards a successful relationship were taken.
The mercurial speedster, it may be recalled, scalped 17 Englishmen in the three-Test series to script a hugely successful comeback.
“Shoaib said ‘coach, I’ve turned over a new leaf and want to perform and enjoy my cricket’.... I responded by saying I’d been supporting him, but it wasn’t so from his side. He then remarked ‘the past is past’... That was fine with me,” Woolmer told The Telegraph.
Speaking over lunch (at the hi-tech Academy) on Saturday, not many hours after returning from a brief visit to Cape Town, he added: “I’m not taking credit for Shoaib’s turnaround... He has done it himself... Indeed, his commitment to the team’s work ethic has been remarkable... No one player can make the difference, but Shoaib has taken on the mantle...”
Woolmer, one may remember, had taken exception to Shoaib’s attitude ' particularly on the 2004-05 tour of Australia ' and made it clear that his return would depend on his willingness to work with the team and not independently.
The Pakistan Cricket Board supported the coach and, obviously, the tough stand worked.
Woolmer, of course, is hopeful that Shoaib will deliver against India as well. “Neither team starts as the favourite... My belief is that every series begins with a 50-50 chance... Then, it’s a question of making the most of opportunities.”
Being the pragmatic sort, Woolmer doesn’t live in the past. And, so, the spectacular win over England (both in the Tests and ODIs) doesn’t mean much in the lead-up to the forthcoming series. As he put it, grinning: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery!”
Earlier, talking to the Media, Woolmer dismissed a suggestion that the next few weeks would also see a battle within a battle ' between Greg Chappell and him. “The coaches don’t come into play... They only create the right environment... Help create the desire... Speaking of Chappell, he doesn’t have to prove anything.”
Thanking Imran Khan for having a session with Mohammed Sami, Woolmer pointed out he wouldn’t have a problem if other greats helped out somebody from the current lot. “It’s not going to be an issue with me.”
And, for the record, Woolmer insisted curators hadn’t been ‘briefed’ on the kind of wickets that ought to be prepared. “Good wickets is all that I want,” he signed off.