Thank you Jimmy, welcome Carl!

By Donald Duff
Stabroek News
February 25, 2001

One of the ironies of life is just that life is ironical. So when the West Indies selectors sit down this week to name the captain of the West Indies team one expects there will be an overwhelming decision to appoint Guyana captain Carl Hooper to the position.

Yes, this will be the same Hooper who, appointed vice- captain for the West Indies 1998 tour of South Africa, was bypassed by the selectors for a one-day international against Australia at his home ground, Bourda in favour of incumbent Jimmy Adams.

And with the first test match against South Africa scheduled for the very Bourda ground, Hooper is on the verge of finally achieving his dream of captaining the West Indies team in front of thousands of adoring cricket fans.

But this will only be so if the West Indies selectors are fair in their assessment of the candidates for the position.

In the past the selectors have shown a blatant disregard for the knowledge and expertise of the fans, those paying spectators that throng the grounds across the region to support their team.

Especially Guyanese who have been voiceless at the many indiscretions committed against its players in the past, refusing to stand up for deserving players for fear of being branded insular. Unlike Barbadians, they never hesitated to boycott a test match because of the omission of Andy Cummings. And even the Antiguans reacted by smashing windows when Sir Vivian Richards was not appointed to the position of West Indies coach.

In Guyana, Hooper has been somewhat of an enigma. Loved to the point of superstardom by some for his classy batting, which resulted in the formation of fan clubs across the country, and castigated by others who focused on his penchant for turning up late to represent Guyana and his underachiever status.

However, this year the fans seem to have come solidly behind the classy batsman as they recognize that he almost single-handedly took Guyana to the top of the Busta Cup standings.

It is not because he scored four centuries but more for the manner in which they were scored. Were it not for Hooper's batting, Guyana would not have finished the tournament on 57 points after whipping all of the regional teams either outright or on first innings and only dropping first innings points to England `A'.

And now, there is growing evidence that, should Hooper not be made captain of the West Indies team, there will be some form of reaction from the Guyana public, possibly in the form of a boycott of the first test.

While branded an underachiever by some sections of the media, there are few persons around who realize that Hooper needs only seven more wickets in test cricket to become the first and only West Indian to score over 4000 runs and take 100 wickets in both Test and one-day internationals.

At the time of his sudden, shocking retirement from international cricket, Hooper had scored 4,153 runs at an average of 33.77 with his 178 not out against Pakistan his highest Test score. In bowling, he captured 93 Test wickets at an average of 47.52. In one-day internationals Hooper has scored 4,612 runs at an average of 33.76 and taken 163 wickets at an average of 34.03 and at a cost of 4.03 runs per over.

Even before he was appointed vice-captain to Brian Lara, Hooper was a serious contender for the post.

One only had to look at his performances whilst leading Guyana and the Guyana team's performance when he was away, to see just how much impact this talented but temperamental all-rounder brought to Guyana.

This year Hooper has shown new maturity in his batting and leadership. He went through the Busta Cup competition with quiet efficiency showing to all that the two-year sabbatical had not dimmed his prodigious talents one iota.

And although commentators Michael Holding and Fazeer Mohammed seem still bent on the `Hooper bashing' whilst ignoring all the other many failures in the team, the selectors' job is not to be swayed by the mutterings of former players who are largely not objective, but to properly assess all the candidates and to select the best qualified one.

The fact that the Guyana Cricket Board stated publicly that they are supporting Hooper for the position of captain will carry some weight as should the sentiments of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards both of whom think Hooper still has lots to offer the West Indies team.

It should be noted that on his present form Jimmy Adams easily couldn't command a place in the team. And on a one-on-one basis, his captaincy skills pale into comparison with Hooper's.

Added to that, his habit of batting around his pads is no longer effective and simply not the type of batting that the young players in the team should be emulating.

Hooper has shown with Guyana what he can achieve with a young side. He brought to the Guyana team inspired leadership, quality skills in batting, bowling and fielding and innovative yet practical field placing.

This is what he is prepared to offer the West Indies team who are in the process of rebuilding. It is an offer the West Indies selectors can hardly refuse.

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