Hooper has done enough for West Indies recall
February 14, 2001
When Carl Llewelyn Hooper made that decision in April 1999 in Barbados to suddenly abandon the Australian tour of the West Indies and the Cricket World Cup which followed, he made the promise, in his retirement announcement, that he would return to the region to represent his native Guyana and to express his gratitude to the cricketing public of the West Indies for the support he had been given over the years.
Carl has kept the promise. He has returned, at his own expense, from his home in Australia, accompanied by his wife and son to say thank you.
In the six matches completed so far, he has paid his supporters back in the most appropriate currency, performances. Carl has batted brilliantly, bowled well and skilfully captained Guyana.
In the current circumstances of West Indies cricket, inevitably there has been a call for him to return to the side and even the suggestion that he should take over the helm.
No one can dare doubt now, following his on-the-field performances that he is physically and mentally fit and ready for the recall to West Indies duty.
Just as inevitably, there are the detractors, who recall that Carl abandoned the West Indies in the midst of a tour, undermined the team's chances in the World Cup in England and had done so in a previous World Cup.
That is true. Those are facts.
No one, though, has sought to look beyond the facts; to look to the possible reasons for the withdrawal.
We do not have to dig too deep for the latest withdrawal. Here we were in the Caribbean, in the middle of the seventh-match One-Day series against Australia. Brian Lara, the captain for the first four games, is unavailable for the fifth at Bourda. Obviously, Carl Hooper, the virtual vice captain, would replace him. Or so we thought.
The selectors then announce that Jimmy Adams would captain the team. Carl Hooper is to be denied that great honour of leading the West Indies on to his home ground in front of his home crowd.
Not a voice is raised. No protest is made. A cricket-starved public at Bourda, about to enjoy the only day of international cricket for the year, keep their peace, so unlike the spectacular boycott in Barbados when an ordinary Anderson Cummins is omitted from the West Indies team for that inaugural Test against South Africa or the throwing of bottles when another Barbadian, Campbell, is given run out at the same venue.
Instead Guyanese, disregarding the hurt the man would obviously have been feeling, watched the game at Bourda, and, in their enthusiasm, invaded the field prematurely to cause abandonment.
Carl plays in the sixth game in Barbados and then announces his retirement. Which one of his critics, which one of us would not have been demotivated?
So he is now back, has demonstrated, quite spectacularly, that he is still a world-class cricketer and has expressed a willingness to further serve the region.
Other greats have migrated away from their game and gone back to it. Michael Jordan, we would remember, for personal reasons, left the Bulls and basketball for a couple of years before returning to re-establish his greatness.
Carl is no Michael Jordan; but his talents are as needed now in the West Indies as the Bulls needed Jordan's talent. We cannot say that he would bring about a change of fortunes for the team, but we do know that his presence will make several critical options available.
Quite significantly, the first Test of the South African series is being staged at the very venue where he was so cruelly and insensitively bypassed. When the selectors meet to choose the squad, they have a wonderful opportunity to right a wrong. They must select Carl Hooper and they must name him captain.
Anyone who has been following the fortunes of Guyana's cricket over the past four or five years might appreciate how responsibly Carl has matured since being elevated to the captaincy of his country's team.
Like with his great predecessor, Clive Lloyd, the mantle of leadership may inspire even greater performances for the West Indies.
One other thing; to omit an outstanding and attractive player from the squad is to significantly reduce the West Indies chances of winning and to negatively affect gate receipts wherever the team is playing. Brian Lara and Carl Hooper are, regrettably, the only two world-class players in the region, who bring spectators through the turnstyles. The others are merely members of the supporting cast.
Over to you Mike Findlay, Joel Garner and Joey Carew. May you have the strength and the courage and the interest of West Indies cricket at heart.
Terry Holder, Kester Alves and Ronald Austin
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