Carl Llewellyn Hooper - The second coming

By Cosmo Hamilton
Guyana Chronicle
February 5, 2001

WHAT many may be wondering these days is what has caused the enigmatic Guyanese all-rounder Carl Hooper to fetch his family halfway around the world to return to the centre of the Caribbean cricket fiasco that he abruptly left behind some 18 months ago, jaded, burnt-out and frustrated.

Perhaps the gifted former West Indies vice-captain experienced an epiphany sometime, somewhere back in the pastoral serenity of Adelaide, in South Australia, where he now calls home.

As he proudly played with his baby son, who must now be completely healthy and out of danger, suddenly, he might have been overcome by the extent of his immense blessings and so felt overpowered, even compelled to help the healing of the severe illness that has afflicted the institution in which he was nurtured.

Yet, not withstanding Hooper's idealism, one must question the expediency of his decision to - in effect throw his white floppy hat into the ring.

There are those who would suggest that this veteran of 80 Tests with a batting average of under 34 should check into "Under-Achievers Anonymous" for an extended period of rehabilitation.

No player in the history of West Indies cricket has taken as much abuse as Carl Hooper, particularly from the media, who are already directing columns of vituperative criticism at the Guyana skipper despite the fact that he has not yet been recalled.

Predictably, leading commentator Tony Cozier has already trotted out his acerbic litany of reasons why Hooper should never again be even remotely close to West Indies cricket - from his fine by the WICB for leaving the team without permission on the 1995 tour of England to his purported breach of manager Wes Hall's authority by opting not to play for Guyana against the touring England team in 1998.

Cozier's most recent anointee for West Indies captaincy is wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.

Similar comments could be anticipated from among others, my good friend of 25 years, Michael Holding, a notorious Hooper critic, who has long considered him public enemy number one. That is until pacer Reon King came along.

Holding acknowledged recently in his column for the `Telegraph' that Jimmy Adams seemed clueless throughout the current tour of Australia, but curiously favours retaining him to lead the team against South Africa.

Nevertheless, to his credit, at age 34 and imbued with new self-belief, new spirit, a new attitude and confident of his considerable abilities, Hooper has concluded that if given the opportunity he can impact positively on West Indies cricket which has reached a nadir, or has it? Apart from all of its myriad problems, the regional team appears to be suffering a leadership vacuum.

Evidently it is in this role that Hooper could make a most significant contribution and the Guyana Cricket Board should be commended for welcoming him back as captain of the Guyana team. Although the decision was in effect a no-brainer so to speak - since Guyana has achieved so much success under his astute leadership over the years, one must appreciate the significance of the GCB decision.

The consensus is that West Indies skipper Jimmy Adams falls well short of the mark on the leadership chart.

His batting is woefully inept and uninspiring - indeed many admit that it could not justify his place on the team. Also, Adams' decision-making and field generalship pale by comparison to his opposite whoever that might be.

As for his vice-captain, opener Sherwin Campbell, the only consistency about his performance is his erratic inconsistency which, based on his one-dimensional role, would merit banishment from most international teams.

But Hooper's second coming, much like the elephant in the living room, demands attention - particularly since the Guyanese has led by shining example from Day 1 on his comeback trail, with passion and commitment, wheeling no fewer than 50 overs and scoring 159 against Barbados at Kensington Oval in the opening Busta Cup fixture.

Whether Hooper would be named West Indies captain by the Board with which he has had a strained relationship for much of his career is a matter of conjecture.

What is certain is that the Guyana captain, quite apart from his highly regarded all-round skills, would bring to the West Indies captaincy, a wealth of experience and perspicacity on every aspect of the game at the highest levels, unmatched by any of his erstwhile colleagues - including Brian Lara.

And contrary to the media's perspective, Hooper has always been well liked by those with whom he has played as well as by those for whom he has played, including manager Clive Lloyd who had favoured him to lead the regional team just prior to his retirement.

His work ethic with regards to preparation for a game would be a model for the young players and would well permeate the team. He is expected to inspire young players as he has Ramnaresh Sarwan, whom he suggested to me back in 1995 - as they wound up a net session at Bourda - would play at Test level. The impressionable youth could only benefit from his pure batting technique and his effortless execution of the fundamentals of the game.

Although Hooper was reluctant to take on the responsibility of captaincy previously, he now seems ready to accept the job if it is offered.

It is this responsibility that might bring out the best in Carl Hooper as it did Clive Lloyd. More importantly, his informed leadership could precipitate a reversal of fortunes for the West Indies.

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