Hooper relishes challenge

By Ezra Stuart
Guyana Chronicle
March 9, 2001

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (CANA) - New West Indies captain Carl Hooper is counting on his years of experience as a professional cricketer to carry him through the challenge of leading the regional team.

Hooper, who will lead the West Indies in his first Test as captain against Shaun Pollock's South Africans from today at Bourda in his native land, says he is ready and sees no problems in getting back on the Test stage.

"I don't think it is going to be difficult. I've got 12 years of international cricket behind me and I've only been out of the game at this level for 18 months, so I have had good preparation," Hooper said.

"I've been back in the Caribbean now, it's been over two months. I've had nine first-class matches under my belt so I am well prepared," added Hooper, who set a new regional record of 954 runs in a single first-class season.

Hooper, who has come out of retirement after quitting the game in two years ago during Australia's tour of the Caribbean, said he spent a lot of time in Adelaide, where he now lives with his Australian-born wife, Connie, and two-year-old son, Carl Jr, reflecting on his career.

"My intentions were always to play for the West Indies again. That might come as a surprise, but my performance in the recently-concluded Busta Cup was no surprise to me," he remarked.

Looking ahead to the Test series against South Africa, Hooper felt it is going to be very tough.

"The South Africans are a very disciplined and tough bunch, but I am sure we've got the good blend of youth and experience and got what it takes to make the series competitive and, hopefully, at the end of the five-Test series, we will be victorious," Hooper said.

Hooper believed that with many young players in the West Indies team, it will be the task of the senior guys like veteran fast bowler Courtney Walsh, experienced batsman Brian Lara and himself to guide them along.

"There are quite a number of young players in the team that I don't know but I'm sure, we as seniors, we will bind fairly quickly and I don't foresee a problem with the communication or anything like that over the next couple of weeks," he commented.

Hooper said it is important for West Indies cricket "to get back on its feet" and "to try and be competitive".

He said it was a good thing for key players like Lara and the evergreen Walsh to get a measure of rest after the tough tour of Australia where the Windies were thrashed 5-0 in the Test series.

"Not only physically, but mentally and to come prepared for the South Africans. I think they are both prepared and ready," he said.

"They looked good in the nets and I expect them to give a good account of themselves over the next couple of weeks."

Hooper noted that the young players on the team seemed eager to take on the South Africans.

"They looked sharp in the nets. There is a lot of anticipation, they are eager, they are anxious and I'm sure they will want to turn things around as quickly as possible," he stated.

Hooper also made it clear that the recent negative comments by Sir Garfield Sobers and Michael Holding, who felt he should not have been appointed captain because of his seemingly lack of commitment over the years, will not drive him to any greater heights.

"I've got goals that I have set when I left the Australian shores to come back here and whatever Mr Holding or Sir Garfield said or probably will continue to say, have no bearing on what I do," he said.

While welcoming the support he is expected to receive from the local crowd, Hooper believes he has to be prepared to deal with the reaction in other territories.

"I am going to have support here because, of course, being Guyanese, I'm playing in front of my home crowd, but what about places like Trinidad and Barbados? What if the reception is not as positive as it should be? I've got to deal with it and come out strong above it," he concluded.