I don’t know how many of you would remember Dr. Ere Seshaiah or, if the name Mark Shields still rings a bell. Seshaiah was the Andhra Pradesh-born pathologist who conducted Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer’s autopsy in Jamaica after he was found dead in his hotel room right in the middle of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup. Mark Shields, a former British law enforcement officer, was the first international police officer to be recruited into the Jamaica Constabulary Force, an agency which had ruled out any foul play in Woolmer’s death.
Seshaiah, however, reckoned that Woolmer was murdered — died due to asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation — and not because of any natural causes. The drama that followed — including daily press briefings by Shields, a coroner’s inquest, the grilling of Pakistani players as Woolmer had died a day after Pakistan’s exit from the World Cup, and a lot more than you can imagine perhaps — had all the ingredients to make a suspense thriller.
Dead and buried for more than 13 years, some ghosts of the past, and these characters, returned to haunt me this Thursday after former Australian cricketer Dean Jones passed away in his hotel room in Mumbai due to a cardiac arrest. It obviously doesn’t have anything to do with any autopsy findings or an inquest — the much-loved Deano, in India for the IPL studio commentary, was reportedly administered CPR in the hotel by fellow commentator and former Australia pacer Brett Lee who made desperate attempts to revive him. But I simply just couldn’t stop myself from connecting the tragic development to Woolmer’s death due to many reasons.
The first was probably the ‘fragility of life’ factor — alive and kicking in full public view till some time ago and then gone forever a few hours later. Memory of Woolmer’s emotional press conference after Pakistan was shunted out of the World Cup following a shocking defeat at the hands of minnows Ireland at Sabina Park is still fresh in many minds. It turned out to be his last as the 58-year-old was found dead in his room the next morning.
The 59-year-old Jones too was commentating and active on social media not too long ago before he drew his last breath. Photographs, videos of him doing commentary or playing golf in the hotel corridor with Lee during the isolation period after arriving in Mumbai from Down Under are now doing rounds on social media platforms.
The second thing which made me draw similarities between the deaths of Woolmer and Jones was the ‘away from home’ end. An Englishman, Woolmer was born in Kanpur, coached South Africa and Pakistan and died in the Caribbean. With wife Gill thousands of miles away in Cape Town, there was nobody by his side in his final moments.
Now Jane Jones, married to Dean for 34 years, would obviously be going through a similar shock and trauma as she awaits her husband’s body to be flown from Mumbai to Melbourne. Death away from home, in a different country is horrifying and turns out to be hugely torturous affair to deal with for the loved ones left behind.
The third reason is probably the death in a hotel room similarity. I remember how I felt when I visited room number 374 in Jamaica’s Pegasus hotel in 2011. Post-Woolmer’s death, the room remained sealed for several years and had just been opened for occupancy again by the hotel authorities with the interiors redone completely. Having followed the developments in his case closely, I couldn’t stop myself from doing the reconstruction of events leading to the death of a man I had met and interviewed many times.
Dean Jones also suffered a similar fate though reportedly help was around. Former Pakistan captain-turned-commentator Ramiz Raja explained the fears on Twitter. “In complete shock to hear about Dean Jones sad passing. One of a kind you were Deano and how lonely and helpless you must have felt on your own in that hotel room — a death we commentators fear the most, and likely to meet, helpless and gone in that hotel room…RIP my friend,” he wrote.
Well, death in a hotel room is something we all, not just the commentators, fear the most.