Hooper surrenders one more time

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor
Jamaica Gleaner
April 27, 1999

CARL HOOPER has called it quits. After 12 years representing the West Indies, the 32-year-old Guyanese strokeplayer on Saturday evening surprised and stunned his colleagues when, out of the blue, he said farewell and walked out of West Indies cricket.

Unlike the other West Indians who served as long and who, whether they left willingly or not, were applauded at the end of their days, Hooper's exit hardly raised a cheer. In fact, justifiable or not, to many it was simply happy riddance to a cricketer, a batsman, who promised so much and delivered so little.

Hooper was a classic batsman, on the go he was a beauty to behold, he did play some superb innings, and despite his failures, there was always a hope that he would come good next time. The reality, however, was that in 80 Test matches, Hooper scored 4,153 runs at an average of 33.77, and in 182 one-day internationals he scored 4,612 runs at an average of 33.76.

According to the West Indies Board, Hooper offered no explanation for his decision to retire. Many fans, however, believe that his sudden decision to go was made after a combination of events - after he was bypassed as captain of the team for the one-dayers following the unavailability of Brian Lara, and after his failures at Bourda and Kensington Oval and the heckling at both venues as the fans vented their feelings.

Whatever the reasons for his decision, and as sudden as it was, apparently, it was hardly surprising - not coming from one with his history.

Over the years, Hooper demonstrated little loyalty to the teams on which he played, certainly for Guyana and for the West Indies, and in extension, little respect for the players with whom he played.

No player who was loyal to his teams, or who respected those with whom he played would have pulled out of the Guyana team, many times at the last moment, as often as Hooper did, and lest it be forgotten, he pulled out of the West Indies team to the last World Cup - also at the last moment.

In 1996, Hooper's late withdrawal affected the strength and the balance of the West Indies team and in many ways reflected his lack of commitment to West Indies cricket.

This time, however, it probably does not matter. This time, based on his attitude towards the game as reflected by the manner of his dismissals in South Africa, his physical condition, and the number of times he has been runout, he probably would have been a liability more than anything else. This time his heart did not seem to be in it. This time, he probably should not have been selected in the first place.

Carl Hooper had a lot of admirers, and no doubt they will be disappointed that he will not be carrying the flag during the World Cup. For them, the hope that he would come good, the promise of a brilliant innings, still lingered.

Even they, however, must be disappointed that one who served West Indies cricket for so long, that one who was treated so well by the selectors, did not have it him to answer the selectors' call, to go to the World Cup, and to ignore the fans - the same fans who, despite his shortcomings, had adored, defended and protected him for so long.

Maybe his heart really was no longer in it, and if that was so, then he did the honest thing. It appears, however, that as it was with his batting on so many occasions, Carl Hooper, instead of fighting for survival, instead of showing the stuff of which champions are made, simply surrendered.