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Gentlemen, search your souls

The gentleman’s game just turned ugly. It has been confirmed that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach was murdered, strangled to death in his hotel room after Pakistan were knocked out of the world cup.

Sport almost by definition is competition sans malice, rivalry sans warfare. We play, watch and love sport because it’s essentially a friendly activity but with intense competition. Our hearts and souls soar and sink with our team’s performance, but either way the highs and lows fade because at the end of the day, we understand that it’s just a game. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true.

The timing and manner of Bob Woolmer’s death almost certainly indicates that it had something to do with Pakistan’s terrible performance at the world cup. Before the murder was confirmed, Sambit Bal wrote an excellent article explaining why the sport of cricket was already in danger of being hyped to the point of fanaticism. With this incident, a very stark line has been crossed. If a sport as a collective (players, sponsors, fans) cannot handle being a sport, does it deserve so high a pedastal? Is the cricket world cup worth more than a human life?

India has a must-win match this evening against Sri Lanka if it must go into the next stage. Normally, there would be nothing else on my mind. Yet right now, I cannot tell if I’ll be able to bear watching the match.

It’s hard to watch a sport when the result may be a matter of life or death. I can only wonder how hard it must be to play it with that at the back of your mind.