Holding gives Hooper pass marks

Stabroek News
April 3, 2001

Carl Hooper's inspirational performances so far in his first stint as West Indies cricket team captain has not only brought great joy to his thousands of supporters in the region, but has made one of his biggest critics swallow his words.

Former West Indies fast-bowler Michael Holding who vowed not to attend any of the matches in the current series and passed up his television commentary job, to protest Hooper's appointment as captain, has a remarkable U turn in his opinion of the Guyanese player and is now actually singing the praises of the all-rounder.

"He has been doing a very good job," Holding told the Sunday Sun edition of the nation Newspaper of Barbados in an interview published on Sunday during the third Test match, while on a visit there to see his fiance.

"The only thing and this is a matter of opinion, that could have been a little different was Thursday's play-off at lunch, Holding said in reference to Hooper's use of his bowlers on the first day of the Third Test which ended in a draw yesterday at the Kensington Oval.

Holding, who has contended that Hooper's appointment as captain was unjustifiable because of his lack of commitment to the team, had no major criticism of the team for their 69-run loss in the second Test in Trinidad and Tobago.

"I think they had one bad day. Test cricket is about sessions and you know if you have sessions that are good, you look forward to the next session. I think West Indies had one bad day which was unfortunately the last day in the second Test when they were chasing 200 runs," he stated.

The ex-Jamaican speedster however, questioned the batsmen's approach on that final day. "I don't think their approach was quite right. They just went out there a little bit too tentatively. I wouldn't want to say negative but tentative, in that they weren't positive in their outlook and they didn't go out there and play their natural game. I think that perhaps caused us the game, although the umpiring decision was against us".

Hooper so far is the team's leading scorer, has picked up vital wickets with his off-spin and his captaincy has received full marks by commentators covering the series.

Staying away and completely ignoring the Test series has been very difficult for Holding, even though he had intended to do just that in his condemnation of the West Indies Cricket Board's decision to recall Hooper.

"Well it's not been easy. I love the game. I love West Indies cricket. I want to see the team doing well," he explained.

"When Brian Lara was given out I nearly tore up the television set because it (umpire's decision) was so ridiculous," he said referring to the lbw verdict which went against the double world record holder which probably cost West Indies victory while chasing 232 runs in that fateful second innings at the Queens Park Oval.

"Sometimes, especially during the first test in Guyana, I have sat down at home and been frustrated by watching on television and have been hoping and wishing I could get involved a bit more and say something to some of the guys immediately instead of having to wait for another day to pass before trying to send a message," Holding disclosed.

Now, only just over a month after saying he is finished with West Indies cricket, Holding is offering advice and give suggestions on a regular basics to the Hooper led team. " I have been giving advice from the start of the series and I have been able to get messages to certain people. I am still trying to take an active part in the West Indies team.

"The West Indies team are still as far as I am concerned the most important thing. They are trying to win a Test series. I would love to see them win a Test series and what little ideas I have I try to get it across to them somehow, whether it is to call them at the hotel or to call someone to try to get a message to them or whatever," Holding stated without identifying the person taking his calls.

He also shared his thoughts on the performances of Lara so far in the series, stating that the Trinidadian does not seem fit mentally and physically.

He said Lara gives the impression of being mentally weary which makes him play bad shots.

Referring to the Bourda Test, Holding said Lara spent a lot of time at the crease, fighting to play himself in, only to waste his effort by playing a rash shot to the wrong ball and getting out.

"Because he is not mentally fit he continues to play shots and picks the wrong ball," Holding pointed out.

Lara has had scores of 47, 45, 12, 0, 8 and 82 so far in three matches.

Holding however, would not be around to see the remainder of the series as he will be off to the United Arab Emirates. But his decision to protest is something he admits he will have to live by.