A case for Carl
LETTER TO THE SPORTS EDITOR
February 15, 2001
NOT surprisingly, one of the region's cricket commentators, disregarding all of the evidence before him, refuses to support the call for Carl Hooper to return to the West Indies team as player and captain.
Reacting to Hooper's indication that he is available and to his more articulate outstanding performances during the current Busta Cup tournament, Fazeer Mohamed disqualifies him because he is 34, he is getting in the way of someone who is "on the way to establishing a long-term career".
Mohammed's argument is based on the need to invest in youth. "It is time," he says, "for the West Indies selectors to realise that we have got to go forward with the young players that we've got. Is Carl Hooper going to take the place of a Marlon Samuels or a Ramnaresh Sarwan or a Wavell Hinds?.
Now, everyone who is serious about the game appreciates the need to invest in youth, recognises the necessity of building for the future.
We must not, though, neglect the present even as we focus on the future. Cricket is the national game of this region and we must have the best eleven available every time the team walks out to the arena. For the forthcoming series against South Africa and for every series thereafter, our best performers must be selected.
The West Indies must play to win, even when developing for the future. The paying fans at home and abroad demand it and deserve it. They want to see the best there is, even while we are investing for tomorrow.
Back to Carl Hooper.
Carl has demonstrated during the last month that at 34, he is physically and mentally fit, that he can concentrate and bat for long hours, can bowl for extended spells and is very athletic in the field. In short, he has demonstrated that he is ready to return to cricket at the highest level.
If the selectors honestly believe that Samuels, Sarwan and Hinds have the quality and class of Hooper, then let them use age as the tie breaker and play them.
If, as I suspect, Carl at 34, with his experience, all- round skills and fitness, is a greater asset to the team, then he must be selected. Brian Lara, with tremendously greater potential at that stage of his career, did not command a place because of his youth.
There is good reason to select players like Hooper.
Mohamed must appreciate the value of experience and maturity on the field and in the dressing room, if the investments for the future are really going to develop. Development does not come without mature guidance. The performance of the players in the current Guyana team, under Carl, is a splendid example.
This is not an argument for the selection of Hooper or anyone else to be based solidly on maturity. That maturity needs to be supported by the ability to produce.
Quite astonishingly, Mohamed, after noting that Adams is not performing with the bat and has tremendous deficiencies as a captain, advocates that Adams, just slightly younger than Hooper, be retained as captain.
It seems to be a case of: not that I like Adams more, but I like Hooper less.
I would want to end this piece with a proposal: Let Carl Hooper be made captain of the West Indies for the short and medium term; let him be given the responsibility to lead the team up to the Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa; let him in the interim, be tasked with cultivating the youngsters with skills. The period to 2003 gives everyone the opportunity to present his credentials as player and as captain.
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