Pakistan's Younis Khan wants to honour Woolmer with win

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Adelaide, Mar 12: Senior Pakistan batsman Younis Khan hopes his side will defeat Ireland in Sunday's must-win World Cup clash as a tribute to their late former coach Bob Woolmer. Woolmer, aged 58, was found dead in his hotel room a day after Pakistan were knocked out of the 2007 World Cup by Ireland in Jamaica.

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After lengthy investigations that included the possibility of murder or suicide, Jamaican police eventually announced that Woolmer had died of natural causes.

File photo of Younis Khan

The same two teams meet again, this time two days ahead of St Patrick's Day, with the winner advancing to the quarter-finals and the losers' fate hanging by a thread.

Khan, 37, is the only member of that 2007 squad still involved in this World Cup, as are three Irishmen skipper William Porterfield and the O'Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin. Eoin Morgan, who played for Ireland in that match, is now the current England captain.

"This is surely a very emotional game for me and all of us," Khan said, remembering the man who coached Pakistan from 2004 till his death.

"I remember Bob a lot, he contributed so much to Pakistan cricket. "Hope we can win this game and some more in the World Cup. There would be nothing better to dedicate to Bob's memory."

Khan said he expected a close game against the fast-improving Ireland team that had beaten the West Indies earlier in the tournament. "It is not about taking revenge, it is about us winning the game to qualify," he said. "We have to be at our best on Sunday."

The Indian-born Woolmer played 19 Tests for England.

Three current Irish players, skipper William Porterfield Three current Irish players, skipper William Porterfield and the O'Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin, were also part of that match, as was Eoin Morgan, now England's one-day captain.

The India-born Woolmer played 19 Tests for England between 1975 and 1981 as a top-oder batsman, scoring 1,059 runs at an average of 33.09 with three centuries.

But later he became a respected coach who had a stint with South Africa before moving to Pakistan. Allegations of match-fixing had been swirling around cricket at the turn of the century, with investigations by the Qayyum commission in Pakistan and the Central Bureau of Investigation in India naming several players.

Unsurprisingly, Woolmer's death began to be linked with foulplay by the illegal betting mafia, fuelled by the fact that all 10 Pakistani wickets against Ireland fell to catches.

Pakistan were bowled out for 132, a target Ireland surpassed after losing seven wickets in a rain-interrupted game. Woolmer, asked by reporters after the stunning loss whether he would resign, said he wanted to 'sleep on my future as coach'.

The mystery deepened when Mark Shields, the deputy police commissioner of Jamaica, announced the coach had been murdered as the cause of death was "asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation".

The then Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul Haq, assistant coach Mushtaq Ahmed and team manager Talat Ali were among those who were grilled by Shields' team and were even forced to provide DNA samples.

Noted sportswriter Osman Samiuddin, who authored a recent book, 'The Unquiet Ones: A History of Pakistan Cricket' described the Woolmer tragedy as a "shitstorm of a period for Pakistan".

"Some days it still feels as if something died not only within Pakistan's cricket but in the sport itself that day," he wrote on the Cricinfo website. "The lack of closure remains the still-open wound of that (2007) tournament."

AFP

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