Hooper targets Australia By Tony Cozier In Kingstown
Stabroek News
May 23, 2002

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Carl Hooper has set world champions Australia as the benchmark by which his West Indies team should be judged.

"We still have better teams to play," the West Indies captain said after the 2-1 series triumph over India yesterday. "One day, when we can compete with an Australian side, then that'll be the time to say, yes, we've turned the corner and we're on the way up."

The West Indies were beaten in all five Tests in Australia in the 2000-01 season.

Hooper was typically cautious in assessing his team's first success in a major series since he took over the captaincy in February last year. Losses 2-1 to South Africa in the Caribbean, 3-0 to Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and 2-0 to Pakistan in Sharjah have been counter-balanced by a 1-0 triumph over Zimbabwe in two Tests in Zimbabwe last July.

He said it was important to build on the victory over India, describing it as "one of the very few series we've managed to put batting and bowling together".

"We've been in the situation before numerous time(s) when we've played good cricket and come away with positive results," he told the media conference. "Then you look back six months on and we've let it slide again".

He cautioned that the West Indies couldn't afford to be complacent or "too carried away" but the result over India.

"We played good cricket for a couple of weeks and beat the Indians but we've got to be focused on the 10 one-day internationals and then the two Tests against the New Zealanders," he said.

The Cable & Wireless Series continues with five one-day internationals against India May 25-June 2 followed by five more against New Zealand June 5-15 followed by two Tests, June 21-25 at Kensington Oval, Barbados, and June 28-July 2 at the Queen's Park Stadium in Grenada.

"I said when we returned from Sharjah (losing both Tests and 2-1 in the internationals to Pakistan), we were making slow progress," Hooper recalled. "People asked how could we be making progress when they saw 3-0 (in Sri Lanka) and 2-0 (in Sharjah) defeats staring them in the face."

"What we see here today is basically what I've been saying for the last few months, that we've been making progress but slowly," he said. "We've still got hard work to do."

Hooper noted that the West Indies went through the series unhindered by the several injuries suffered in recent series. "I don't think we've got the depth in West Indies cricket today to miss a few key players and perform to the level we expect," he explained. "We've got to try to get our best eleven players on the field at all times."

"If we do miss a Brian Lara or a Merv Dillon, obviously the side is weakened and it (lack of injuries) was important in this series," he said. He contrasted that with India's loss of veteran leg-spinner Anil Kumble who had his jaw broken when batting in the Antigua Test, was able to bowl only 14 overs and had to return home for an operation.

"India were unfortunate to lose a player like Kumble in the vital Antigua Test and he would have probably played here and been a key figures," he added.