‘He was one of Kent’s finest all-rounders’
TRIBUTES have been paid to former Kent and England all-rounder Bob Woolmer, who died suddenly at the weekend.
The 58-year-old Pakistan coach was found unconscious in his hotel room in Jamaica and pronounced dead at the University Hospital in Kingston on Sunday morning.
Hours earlier he had watched Pakistan crash out of the World Cup following their surprise defeat by Ireland.
Born in Kanpur in India, the son of a British business executive, Mr Woolmer moved to England at the age of seven to go to Yardley Court School in Tonbridge.
He was at Skinner’s School in Tunbridge Wells when, at the age of 15, he came to the attention of then Kent 2nd XI coach Colin Page.
Mr Woolmer made his first team debut in July 1968, aged 20.
Within two years he had won his county cap, having evolved into a key member of Kent’s most successful side ever.
His medium-pace bowling and ability to swing the ball both ways were instrumental in securing the county championship title in 1970.
Mr Woolmer was selected to play for England in the second Test of the 1975 Ashes series and made his debut at Lord’s.
He was named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year in 1976 but arguably his talents reached their peak in 1977.
That season, when Kent shared the championship title with Middlesex, Mr Woolmer finished top of their bowling ranks and second in their batting averages.
Kent retained their title the following summer.
Mr Woolmer was one of Kent’s most prolific limited overs match winners.
He was the first bowler to take 50 wickets in a league season and his John Player League bowling return of six for nine against Derbyshire in 1979 remains Kent’s best figures in league cricket.
Mr Woolmer’s Test career got off to a promising start.
He made 149 in his second appearance to secure a draw after England followed on at the Oval in 1975 against the Australians.
He went on to score three hundreds in his first seven Tests against Australia, equalling Peter May’s record, but his Test career tailed off thereafter.
A short stint playing World Series Cricket under the Kerry Packer banner in 1977 only served to sour his relationships with Kent’s committee and the Test selectors.
Mr Woolmer returned to play four more Tests, but his England career ended after six one-day internationals and 19 Test caps, the last of them back at Lord’s against Australia in 1981.
He joined the rebel tour to South Africa in the winter of 1981-82, and later made his home in Cape Town.
Mr Woolmer retired from county cricket because of injury at the end of his Kent benefit season in 1984, after 279 first-class matches.
He scored 12,634 runs for the club, making his average 35.09, and took 334 wickets for 23.28 runs apiece.
This made him one of only 16 Kent players to post a career double of 5,000 runs and 250 wickets.
Mr Woolmer opened a sports shop in Tonbridge and ran a wholesale sports goods company in the town before rejoining Kent in 1987 for a brief stint as coach.
He was then coach at Warwickshire, leading the club to the championship runnersup slot in his first season in 1991, their historic treble in 1994 and four trophies in as many years before leaving for a stint as coach to South Africa.
He led South Africa to the World Cup final, but Mr Woolmer’s term in office was overshadowed by the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal.
Mr Woolmer saw in the Millennium back at Edgbaston during a second spell as coach that ended after defeat in the 2002 Benson & Hedges Cup final.
After a brief stint as the ICC’s high performance manager, he took over as coach to Pakistan.
His otherwise productive three-year term was marred by last summer’s ball tampering allegations during the Test at the Oval.
Mr Woolmer leaves a wife, Gill, and sons Russell and Dale.
Kent annual meeting report - see Sport page 12.
Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer practises with the team before their game at the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury on July 6 last year