Crown for charming ‘Sir Carl’ By Ezra Stuart
(In association with Caribbean Star)
Guyana Chronicle
April 14, 2002

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Christened “Sir Carl” by his adoring fans in the Caribbean, charismatic West Indies captain Carl Hooper has taken a giant step in the journey to achieving his real crown.

As he compiled a typically classy career-best 233 over the first two days of the opening Test of the 2002 Cable & Wireless series against India, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo must have been busy putting the necessary mechanisms in place to bestow a new insignia on the Republic’s most loved sportsman.

Spellbound by his scintillating stroke-play, Hooper’s loyal subjects would be the first to say that the Medal of Service (MS) awarded to “Sir Carl” last February on Republic Day, represents merely a small token for the prodigal son of West Indies cricket.

Come May 26 in the Republic’s Independence honours, don’t be surprised if “Sir Carl” is elevated to the Golden Arrow of Achievement (AA), the country’s fourth highest honour.

Guyana have produced several outstanding batsmen such as Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, the late Roy Fredericks, Clive Lloyd and Alvin Kallicharran but none of them has ever won the hearts of their compatriots like Hooper.

Sometimes I wonder whether Hooper is a magician just seeing the manner in which he has hypnotised his loyal subjects, leaving them spellbound with his dazzling stroke-play.

Despite his bag of tricks, his worshippers have remained loyal to him, waiting for the regal display he produced on Thursday and Friday as he flayed the Indian bowling.

Hooper did not wave his magic wand over the Bourda ground in his typical cool, calm and classical style, rather it was his flair and flamboyance which were evident in the ten and a half hours he spent at the crease.

The 402-ball masterpiece, the highest individual Test score by a West Indian at the batsman-friendly Bourda venue, was adorned by majestic stroke-play.

His streaky first-ball edge which slipped through the wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta’s left glove and an involuntarily drive which flew behind first and second slip were the only boundaries in his 29 fours and three sixes over which he had no control.

For all of Hooper’s past indiscretions, very few Guyanese will fret and disagree should President Jagdeo follow my humble suggestion and bestow on him, the AA honour. Some would even advance that he should be given the highest honour for his heroics.

But with the likes of former West Indies captains Kanhai and Lloyd having been bestowed with the Cacique Crown of Honour, the Republic’s third highest honour, for now an AA for “Sir Carl” would suffice.

Since his return to international cricket after a premature and miscalculated retirement towards the end of Australia’s 1999 visit to the Caribbean, Hooper’s name has been on the lips of West Indian cricket fans.

The front cover of the recently published Carib Cricket Circle magazine which was launched during the current Test match at Bourda, makes a pertinent statement with the call “Time to Deliver”, alongside a picture of Hooper.

Already, it appears to be “deliverance time” for Hooper and the West Indies team, which has endured a litany of woes, especially on overseas tours over the past five years.

Whereas the Guyanese star has not shone brightly and illuminated the international arena since his return, with a solitary century against Zimbabwe in 12 Tests as captain before this current match Hooper has lit a bright flame in the Caribbean.

Last year, he was in sparkling form in the Busta Cup Series, masterfully reeling off four centuries with typical regal stroke-play en route to a record 954 runs only eclipsed by Stuart Williams this year.

Still, Hooper was unable to earn silverware in both the 2001 Busta Cup and International Shield as Guyana finished runners-up to Barbados and Jamaica.

However, glory for Guyana came in October when Hooper, known for his inspirational leadership, guided his troops to the Red Stripe Bowl title with a cameo knock in the final against Barbados, which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Only last week, Hooper was receiving the 2002 Busta International Shield after scoring a superlative 222 in the semifinals against the Leeward Islands and then a magnificent unbeaten 149 that earned him the Man-of-the-Match award in the final against dethroned Shield champs Jamaica.

He has promised that “Come June, we’ll win” the series against India. If the matured manner in which he batted for his first Test double century is anything to go by, Hooper could be lifting more silverware after the fifth Test in Jamaica.

(Ezra Stuart is a Barbadian journalist covering the first Cable & Wireless Test at Bourda.)