'Hoops' gets the nod

By Tony Cozier
Stabroek News
March 3, 2001

Carl Hooper, who quit the game three weeks before the 1999 World Cup was last night confirmed as West Indies captain for the forthcoming home series against South Africa.

The announcement from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) came almost two years after his sudden retirement from international cricket during the one-day home series against Australia and three days after he was nominated by the selectors for the required approval of the board's directors.

The 34-year-old veteran of 80 Tests and 182 one-day internationals replaces Jimmy Adams, the 33-year-old Jamaican left-hander, who had the job thrust on him just over two years ago when rian Lara resigned after two years of what he called "moderate success and devastating failure".

Adams was not included in the squad of 16 named on Wednesday for a pre-series training camp and his career of 54 Tests could be at an end.

The WICB last night thanked him for "his contribution and efforts in leading the West Indies team during a very testing period and wished him the very best in the future".

Hooper's elevation to the highest and most responsible position in West Indies cricket will draw mixed reactions.

It is already widely known that the selectors - chairman Mike Findlay, Joey Carew, Joel Garner and coach Roger Harper - were not unanimous in their choice. Reliable reports are that the directors were also split.

But there will be joyous celebrations in Guyana and especially Georgetown, Hooper's home town where he will lead the team onto Bourda for the first time as captain next Friday.

Hooper is the fourth captain since Richie Richardson jumped before he was pushed and resigned during the 1996 World Cup in India. Courtney Walsh, Brian Lara and Adams have followed as the West Indies have tried unsuccessfully to turn around a shocking record of 18 defeats in 20 overseas Tests.

Hooper was vice-captain to Lara on the tour of South Africa in 1998-99 that was preceded by the players strike at Heathrow Airport and ended in a 5-0 whitewash in the Tests and a 6-1 defeat in the one-day internationals.

His infant son's illness kept him in Australia for the first two Tests of the subsequent home series when Adams took over as vice-captain.

On the only previous occasion he was made captain, for the Hong Kong Sixes tournament in 1997, Hooper did not play because of a dispute with the organisers.

The change in the captaincy this time has been based on performance rather than commitment and responsibility for there was no more committed and responsible individual in the team than Adams.

After an outstanding start to his captaincy, averaging 68.83 in leading the West Indies to four victories in his first six Tests, Adams' form declined in relation to his team's. He averaged 24.44 in the series in England last summer that was lost 3-1 and 18.8 in the 5-0 drubbing in Australia more recently.

Hooper's underachievement during his dozen years of Test cricket are reflected in a batting average of 33.76 and a bowling average of 47.01.

Only an outstanding season in the Busta International Series on his return from Australia, where he had been resident with his second wife, an Australian, and young son, could have influenced the selectors to consider him again.

He delivered with interest. He has scored a record 889 runs in eight matches, with four hundreds and an average of 97, taken 24 wickets and led Guyana to the final of the Busta International Shield in Kingston, starting today.

By a strange coincidence, his opposing captain will be Adams.

Like all specially gifted sportsmen, Hooper triggers contrasting emotions. The Caribbean is divided over whether he is a cricketing god or an ordinary mortal with feet of clay.

Even Guyana's president, Bharat Jagdeo, was moved to publicly call on the selectors to pick him in the Test team, even if the March 19 general elections helped to prompt the sentiment.

While the West Indies have the abysmal record of 18 losses in their last 20 overseas Tests, they have been beaten only once in a home series since 1973.

But Hooper has been quick, and realistic enough, to caution that whoever is captain will make little difference to the team's chances.

If he can transfer his Busta form to the Test series, he would have gone a long way to justifying the faith now shown in him. The expectations, and the pressure, are great.

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