A new Hooper is beginning to unfold by Colin Croft
Stabroek News
April 12, 2002

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Test cricket can be very fickle animal. How a day evolves sometimes comes from a bit of luck, a sense of occasion and perhaps just simple doggone determination.

Last week, Carl Hooper was suggesting that he wanted more than anything to score a century at Bourda, in front of his home crowd. Sometimes, one has to very careful what one wishes for, for it can actually happen!!

If only life can be as simple as Carl Hooper sometimes makes batting look. After being dropped off the first ball that he received, and getting another "life" when on 10, West Indies captain Hooper made the best use of these opportunities by scoring his first Test century, 108 not out, at his home ground, Bourda. Overall, it was Hooper's 11th century in Tests and his 2nd since becoming captain, in only 11 Tests at the helm. Talk about taking on the responsibilities of a position.

He hit 14 fours and one six in a superlative display of patience, poise, positiveness and effectiveness as he and the West Indian middle order batsmen ground the Indians literally to a standstill by the end of Day 1.

With Ramnaresh Sarwan, who made a very polished 53, his 10th Test half century, Hooper put on 113 for the 4th wicket, and the still unfinished 5th wicket partnership, with Shiv Chanderpaul, is now also worth 113.

Chanderpaul is 57 not out, his 24th Test half century.

All this after the West Indies had been struggling in the first session at 44 3, thanks to fast bowler Javagal Srinath, the pick of the Indian bowlers.

It was a tremendous comeback for the West Indies and a personal triumph for their captain. Now, the West Indies, at 270 4, would be looking for a minimum of 500 runs in their first innings before letting their bowlers at the Indian batsmen. Two hundred and twenty two against the Leeward Islands two weekends ago, then 149 not out against Jamaica last weekend and now 108 not out against India. Wow, what a spell the last three weekends have been for captain Carl Hooper. I would suggest that the innings against Jamaica last week was the best that I have seen Hooper bat. Yet, the least of the three scores, so far, 108 not out, is easily the most important. It also shows how quickly cricket can change. I doubt that many West Indian supporters would have thought the team would have managed 250, much less to be in a position to get maybe 450 500 in their first innings when they had lost three wickets quickly.

As the West Indies captain suggested, though, he is finding new resilience in his team, and he knows that better is to come. "The guys are understanding their responsibilities and roles better these days. Today, at 44 3, we needed someone to step up to the plate and bat well. That someone managed to be me, but both Ramnaresh (Sarwan) and Shiv (Chanderpaul) played quite well to pull us out of trouble. That was very heartening to see. I know that we are learning to play and play well. I am very optimistic for the future of our team." When Gayle had literally played no shot at a delivery slanted across his body, the ball just clipping the bat's edge on its way to the wicket keeper, and then Stuart Williams had shuffled slowly to be caught plumb in front, jaws and hopes dropped for West Indies supporters. That was nothing in comparison to what came next. After batting for about a quarter of an hour, Lara played and actually missed one from Javagal Srinath that cut away from the talented left hander on its way to the wicket keeper. One of the new "elite" umpires set up by the International Cricket Council, Darryl Harper, saw it differently and gave Lara out. In my mind, that was a very "un elite" decision; a mistake made.

Instead of buckling, though, the West Indies batting rallied in a strange way.

Maybe there is something in there too. Whatever it is, maybe Carl Hooper should bottle it and merchandise it, thus guaranteeing that he would be a very rich man after his playing days are over. Not that they will be for some time yet. Last week, in Jamaica, Hooper told me that at age 35, he was playing better than ever. If he is now maturing as a batsman, then there should be another five years in him. In other words, perhaps a few more innings as the one on Day 1 of this Test series could put Hooper and the West Indies into the positive half of the ICC Test championship. Remember, sometimes, one gets what one wishes for.!!