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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 14:03 GMT
World press mulls Woolmer murder
Bob Woolmer
Woolmer's death has cast a shadow over the cricket World Cup
The news that the police investigation into the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer at the cricket World Cup has become a murder inquiry has provoked a blizzard of speculation in the international press.

Many commentators see a link with the murky world of gambling and match-fixing.

Others report the possibility that an angry fan may have got to the coach after Pakistan's humiliating defeat by Ireland, which caused the team's elimination from the competition.

Some papers report claims - subsequently denied by the Jamaican police - that an arrest had been made.

Confirmation that a murder inquiry was under way came too late to make it into many Pakistani newspapers, but the story is reported at length in the press in Britain, Woolmer's mother country, and South Africa, whose cricket team he coached in the late 1990s.

'Corrupt culture'

Writing in London's Daily Telegraph - the newspaper of choice for many English cricketing aficionados - Michael Henderson is in no doubt about what happened. Woolmer, he says, was "strangled by somebody, or some people, who may have feared that he would reveal details of the corrupt culture of Pakistan cricket".

He says the coach was ready to stand down from his post, and had been making notes of his time in charge for a possible book, before stating: "In such a position, when millions of dollars depend on the outcome of matches, he could easily have made enemies of those who try to persuade players to throw matches.

"The International Cricket Council has declared that the World Cup will carry on but this horrible business confirms that match-fixing... still infects the game."

Key questions

The Star of South Africa appears to take a similar line, asking two questions in headlines: "Did he know his killer?" and "Was he about to expose the match-fixers? "

It goes on to quote Jamaican police as saying that Woolmer was probably strangled by someone he knew, and to quote former Pakistan bowler Sarfraz Nawaz as saying he believed Woolmer was murdered by a betting syndicate because he was about to reveal all in a book.

South Africa's Mail & Guardian says the news has once again turned the spotlight on corruption in the game, but also reports that - on the evidence of local radio phone-ins - many Jamaicans are concerned that the murder will tarnish the island's reputation.

"Jamaica is regarded as a place where murder occurs on a daily basis. The rest of the world is now going to say how violent Jamaica is," one caller is quoted as saying.

'Tremendous passion'

The story has generated press interest beyond countries where cricket is a mainstream sport.

Despite having a team in the World Cup, Canada is not a hotbed of cricket, but the Toronto Star reports the murder inquiry prominently, saying the case has "prompted much speculation among followers of cricket, a sport that breaks for tea and makes baseball seem fast-paced.

"Despite its gentlemanly manner, the sport generates tremendous passion in Britain and its former colonies," it says.

"Protesters in several Indian cities, for instance, burned effigies of their national cricket players and destroyed portions of one player's half-built home after the team was beaten Sunday by Bangladesh."


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