| Greg Chappell mourns Woolmer’s death before India’s match against Bermuda. (AP)
March 19: Immediately after the World Cup ouster by Ireland, Bob Woolmer had risen above his disappointment to give his team a pep talk.
But it was the years of stress gnawing away at his health that killed the Pakistan coach, his wife Gill and son Russell believe.
“His job there has been incredibly stressful,” Gill told British newspaper The Mirror.
“The doctors think it is either stress or a heart attack,” Russell told South African radio from Cape Town. “It may have been stress that caused it. We’re all very shocked and we don’t know what to do.”
Woolmer, a diabetic reported to be suffering from breathing problems, was found unconscious in a pool of vomit in his Jamaican hotel room yesterday morning and was declared dead after being taken to hospital.
Hours earlier, he had told reporters: “Doing it (coaching) inter- nationally, it takes a toll on you — the endless travelling and the non-stop living out of hotels.”
The tragedy prompted Australian captain Ricky Ponting to put the hype over sporting success into perspective.
“We sometimes get a bit carried away with what we do in sport. But when something like this happens, it certainly rams home that there are other things happening around you all the time.”
Woolmer himself had seemed to turn his gaze to the big picture quickly after the defeat to Ireland. “After the game, he went to all the boys and cheered them up. He told them these things happen in life. That was his greatest quality. Even in the bad times, he would think positive,” Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq said.
That was the final time he spoke to Woolmer, said Inzamam, who announced he was retiring from one-dayers after the last Cup game against Zimbabwe on Wednesday and was also stepping down as Test captain.
“He (Woolmer) asked me on the bus, ‘What are your future plans' Can we discuss them tomorrow'’ (But) tomorrow never came.
“I will never forget him. He was a very good coach and a super human being.”
Pakistani newspaper Jang reported rumours that Woolmer may have committed suicide but offered no proof. The Mirror suggested an “accidental overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol”, coupled with stress, may have killed the former England Test player.
Pakistan assistant manager Asad Mustafa said a medical panel would announce the cause of death later in the day.
President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz joined their nation in paying tribute. “Woolmer promoted the cause and game of cricket with devotion and single-mindedness,” Musharraf said in his message to the coach’s family.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam, who has had several run-ins with the Indian diplomatic establishment over her comments on sensitive matters, lived up to her reputation. She said, “It is all the more regrettable that Bob Woolmer died after poor performance by our cricket team.”
A small corner of India -- Kanpur’s Macrobert hospital where the Englishman was born on May 14, 1948 – remembered his visit two years ago. The hospital, where Woolmer had inaugurated an operation theatre named after him, had delighted the coach by handing him his birth certificate.
The International Cricket Council has asked teams to wear black armbands during their next matches.