Friday, March 23, 2007

Woolmer was murdered, and the days of meaningless games are over (assuming the cup itself is not meaningless).

As I suspect most readers of this blog are aware, Jamaican police have confirmed that Bob Woolmer was murdered, and we are having bizarre events occur like the police taking fingerprints of the entire Pakistan team. My assumption is that the murder was carried out by somebody connected with Pakistani bookmakers. As to why, the most convincing argument I can find comes from Guy Herbert on Samizdata.

A hypothesis that fits this model is that Woolmer was killed because his team accidentally lost to Ireland, radically cutting down on subcontinental betting at the latter stages of the competition and thus bookies' profits. In the world of the gangster there can be no accidents, so someone had be blamed and someone had to pay.

I personally find it hard to believe that the murder was not in some way connected with Pakistan's loss to Ireland. That itself was such a remarkable event, and the two events came so close together that it seems unlikely they were not connected. It does seem very unlikely that bookmakers would want Pakistan eliminated so early in the tournament. The suggestion that Woolmer was murdered because he planned to write a book exposing what was going on in Pakistan has been much mentioned, but I don't buy it. I can buy the possibility of him being murdered over it, but the timing is all wrong. Why would bookmakers do it at a time when it would upset the World Cup, from which they were trying to make large sums of money? Scott believes that it may have been an enraged fun who had perhaps lost money on the match. This might be possible, but I don't really buy it either. The fan would have had to have located Woolmer's hotel room, been either invited into the room or in some way forced entry, and then murdered Woolmer and got out without causing suspicion or evidence or memories behind. I tend to think that if it were the "enraged" fan, then he would have been caught by now.

But this is all speculation. I do not know what is going on in Jamaica and I do not know any of the people involved. Hopefully Indian coach and former Australian captain Greg Chappell has good security. Also, I can't imagine there will be many foreign applicants for the now vacant position of coach of Pakistan.

Onto cricket. Two games yesterday, both fairly humdrum. Despite their heavy defeats by Australia and South Africa, the Netherlands demonstrated that they are much better than Scotland with an easy eight wicket win. New Zealand v Canada was more interesting. Thanks to 101 from Lou Vincent, 66 from Simon Fleming, 47 from Peter Fultun and 52 from Brendon McCullum, New Zealand amassed a huge 5/363 off their 50 overs. Most minnows would then crumble and get out for 130, but Canada took it to New Zealand. John Davison was the star of the minnow players at the last world cup (hitting the fastest century in World Cup history, and he hit 52 off 31 balls yesterday, followed by 40 from Barnett, 37 from Bagai, and 50 from Billcliff. At one point Canada were 2/188 in the 35th over, but the target was too high and they eventually crumbled and slowed to be out for 249 off 49.2 overs. (It is worth noting that Shane Bond was not playing. Canada would have been unlikely to score so many runs if he had been). New Zealand finish their first round matches with three wins out of three and will carry two points over into the Super Eight. New Zealand have been one of the most professional sides in the tournament in getting through the first round.

I think in cricketing terms the tournament really now gets going. Today we have India versus Sri Lanka in Trinidad and Ireland v West Indies in Jamaica. The first of these games is huge. India need to win to make the Super 8. If they do, they will also carry two points with them into the Super eight, and their position will be a good one for the rest of the tournament. If they lose, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will to through with Sri Lanka carrying over two points. These points are a big deal for Sri Lanka, but this is a bigger game for India, and for the organisers, and for the TV networks. If the occasion was equal for both sides, I would favour Sri Lanka, but here I just don't know. I call it 50-50. However, if India lose, I would advise Greg Chappell not to go anywhere alone for a little while.

The other game is West Indies versus Ireland. Both sides have made the super eight already and today's winner will carry over two points. The West Indies have been a little lackluster so far, but have in truth done everything asked of them, unlike (say) India. West Indian captain Brian Lara has said the right things about not underestimating Ireland today, and I am sure the West Indies won't underestimate Ireland, and as a consequence should win easily.

Tomorrow we have Australia v South Africa. Both sides have already qualified for the Super Eight, but the winner carries two points over. Both sides probably see the other as their biggest obstacle to winning the tournament.

There is also one other little oddity here. Australia have a 14 game winning streak in World Cup matches. This winning streak started in the 1999 final. Think about that. The winning streak started in the final of a match with semi-finals. How odd is that? The reason of course is that the game before that was the memorable tied semi-final between Australia and South Africa, and Australia went through to the final on the basis of a higher position in the Super Six. (Australia's unbeaten streak in World Cup matches is actually 20 games, which is pretty amazing). I am sure South Africa remember all this well, and they will be out for revenge.

Also tomorrow, we have Kenya versus England. If Kenya were to beat England Kenya would go through and England would be eliminated. England have been unimpressive, but still should win. However, Kenya are probably the best of the minnows if you do not count Bangladesh, and an upset, although improbable, is not impossible. Still England to win that one.

The first round matches then finish with Bermuda playing Bangladesh. Bangladesh will win this easily. Whether that result is a confirmation of their place in the Super Eight or just a consolation prize depends on the result today.

1 comment:

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