How Kanpur remembers Bob Woolmer and his family

Rao Jaswant Singh
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Bob Woolmer, 58, was found dead in his hotel room in Kingston, Jamaica, during the 2007 cricket World Cup. (AP Photo)

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, who died yesterday, was born in Kanpur, and the sad news has stirred emotions.

From doctors of the hospital he was born in — the Georgina McRobert Memorial Hospital — to fans aware of the coach and his birth here, all expressed grief.

Two years ago Woolmer visited the hospital and sponsored an operation theatre in his name. "My father told me I was born in front of the world-famous Green Park Stadium," he had said then. His father had captained the United Provinces cricket team, as the Uttar Pradesh team was then known.

Woolmer's family left India on May 14, 1948.

Woolmer went on to play for England and then made a name as one of the freethinking coaches.

Said Dr AS Prasad, a surgeon at the Georgina McRobert Hospital: "Since his father Charles Woolmer was a senior officer at the Royal Exchange Insurance Company in Kanpur, before being transferred to Calcutta, Woolmer and his family had great affection for Kanpur."

On his visit to the hospital on April 14, 2005, the staff had presented him with his birth certificate. In exchange he had given them team T-shirts of Pakistan, autographed by all players, said Prasad.

He said Woolmer had also expressed interest in the textile mills of Kanpur, in some of which his father had worked before the family moved on the Calcutta.

Another hospital employee, Kishan Lal, said Woolmer had spoken of the permanent impression left in his memory by the Green Park stadium. Little else is known about the Woolmers' life here. However, the house the Woolmers lived in is well known — in Civil Lines. A red brick structure that stands out in the midst of the newer bungalows and high-rises, now occupied by squatters.

All that they know of who lived in it once is: "Yahan koi angrez adhikari raha kartey they, unkey jaaney key baad bangla khali pada hai."

(This story was originally published on March 19, 2007- a day after Bob Woolmer passed away)