From Adams to Hooper
- Passage of the West Indies captaincy
Stabroek News
September 20, 2001

by Colin Croft

With former Test fast bowler Nixon Mc Lean joining former Test captain Jimmy Adams and another recent former Test fast bowler, Franklyn Rose, in the continuing exodus of West Indian cricketers to play in the next South African first-class season, a short introspection of Adams' captaincy is not misplaced.

He did say this week that "I would very much like to play for the West Indies again.

However, it would not be now, since there are other things about my personal and international cricketing stature that I must take care of."

Although there seemed to have been a seamless transition to Carl Hooper's captaincy of the West Indies cricket team, after Jimmy Adams' effort, there are those, many illustrious names among them, including other, but not so recent former West Indian players, who still cannot appreciate what has happened in the transition. For my part, I have always suggested that Hooper, as a batsman, overall, has under-produced. No batsman with his talent and ease at the crease should be averaging a marginal 35 runs per innings, especially after over 80 Test matches, but that is another story altogether.

Adams, for his part, became so ultra conservative, ultra defensive, even negative, so uninspiring as a captain, that he seemed to stifle himself and his team too.

I would say this for Hooper, though. With the advent to captaincy, there seems to be a revival of desire for the talented right-hander to do well, and his leadership qualities, both in thought and in deed, seem to be rubbing off on his charges. Hooper, though, is being cautious, as he himself puts it, "it is much too early for anyone to put too much importance on us beating Zimbabwe and Kenya.

It will be some time before we can be ready for the big boys of Australia and South Africa."

At least Hooper is realistic, but his younger players (only Hooper himself, Shiv Chanderpaul, Brian Lara, when he is fit, and Ridley Jacobs can be called veterans) have reacted well to Hooper's captaincy.

Hooper simply became the captain by default. There was no-one else to fill the gap!! Granted that he was somewhat successful when he captained Guyana in the 2001 Busta four-day competition, and was captain when Guyana won the one-day competition recently too, and was even vice-captain of the ill-fated West Indies cricket team to South Africa in 1998.

However, all things being equal, Brian Lara should now have been the West Indies cricket team captain.

The problem with that thought, of course, is that Lara was given the captaincy at the wrong time, much too early in the piece, more from greed, from both he and his advisors, than anything else, while his predecessor, Courtney Walsh was given the captaincy also much too early, if it should have happened at all, the "wasting" of Richie Richardson by the powers-that-be, being the fault.

All this stemmed from the selfishness of most of the senior players, Lara and Adams among them, and the absolute implosion of the team in the United Kingdom in 1995, one captained by perhaps the worst-ever treated person in that capacity, by both the West Indian public and cricket administration, Richie Richardson.

That tour, in my mind, saw the West Indies cricket team as near to destruction as it has ever come.

It did not help matters at all that Australia has just beaten the West Indies, at home, before that tour of England by them.

When Australia beat the West Indies, under Richardson's captaincy, at Kingston, to win that series in 1995, it was the first time since 1973 that West Indies had lost a series at home.

After Courtney Walsh's stint, the next in line of course, was Brian Lara. With Lara's sojourn less than expected, Adams was next, especially since Hooper had taken a year away from the game, due to, according to him, "the shenanigans ongoing in West Indies cricket". The line of trial-and-error was now at Adams, since Lara had already shot his bolt, a blank that never fired well as captain, despite his miraculous one-man show against Australia, again, at home in early 1999, just before the World Cup.

Who would forget Lara's 213 in the second Test at Kingston after the team had collectively been bowled out for 51 in the second innings of the 1st? Still others would never live a better cricket day than that superlative Lara effort at the Kensington Oval in Barbados for 153 not out to win Test No. 3.

Lara as captain though, ended when New Zealand won every single match of that 1999/2000 millennium tour. Like Pakistan did in obliterating the Courtney Walsh-led West Indies in 1996/7, New Zealand in 1999/2000 were playing against themselves!!

Adams was next in line.

He, by then descending from his nearly 170 Test average in 1994/5 to about a more realistic average of 60, started well too, as captain. Unfortunately for him, in retrospect a crucial blow, since he and Lara were great friends, was that Adams did not have Lara in his team when he, Adams, was made captain. Lara was injured, but it was Adams, with his batsmanship, who had helped Lara, when he, Lara, was captain, to at least draw with the touring Aussies in 1999.

In his second game as captain, though, against Zimbabwe, Adams made an unbeaten century. He went one better when he also won the Test series against Pakistan, being at the crease when the winning run as hit. That made Adams two series for two wins!!

The tour of England in 2000 was the beginning of the end for Adams, both as a captain and especially as a player. Not only did the West Indies lose the series 3-1 after winning the 1st Test handsomely, but after being annihilated at Lords, matters were made worse, as there was no inspiration coming from Adams. He only averaged 24.22, with an aggregate of 218 from 9 innings in that series. Whatever a West Indies cricket team captain does, he must never lose to England, or so goes the unwritten law anyway.

Another poignant realism, perhaps even more important in West Indies cricket, is this:
Unlike the English, who still hold on to the fantasy that their captain must either come from the "right" public schools or play for the right clubs or county, the West Indies adage for the team's captain is simple. Anyone who would be nominated as captain must firstly be able to hold his place in the team as a player. Adams suffered from this badly, after the tour of Australia, which followed the England loss. Against Australia, Adams averaged 18.87, with an aggregate of 151 in the five Tests from 10 innings.

With the young pups Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels already making their way in, it was the way out for Adams. It was very obvious that he would have struggled badly to get into the West Indies team as a batsman in his own right to play against the 2001 tourists, South Africa.

To add to his problems, his normally intense attitude became so morose, absolutely negative, while his tactics, even against the best team in the world, were so none existent that many expected him to resign even before the Australian tour had been completed. He seemed completely out of it. The West Indies simply had to have another captain, whomsoever that would be.

That Carl Hooper came back after his one year hiatus was just fortunate for the region and especially the youngsters of the cricket team. If Adams comes back and does well enough to be selected again for the West Indies cricket team, then it would reflect rather badly on the young incumbent players now in the team. It would mean that they will not have fulfilled the promises and hopes that all West Indian supporters have, of them.