Hooper pulls out
By Ezra Stuart
Guyana Chronicle
April 8, 2003

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CASTRIES, St Lucia - Carl Hooper, one of cricket's most charismatic, yet complex characters, calmly closed the curtain on his controversial career yesterday by withdrawing from the West Indies team to face Australia in the first Test starting in his native Guyana on Thursday.

Concerned he would be stalling the progress of a younger cricketer, Hooper, after hinting Sunday that he had been weighing his options and considering his next move, ended the speculation which had been rife ever since he was sacked as West Indies captain last week.

"This has been a difficult decision but is one I feel must be made, given the recent developments over the last few weeks and the new direction in which the team will now head," Hooper said in a statement released yesterday.

Hooper, while not indicating he has officially retired from Test cricket, said the decision to withdraw from the team was made after "careful consideration".

"Though tempted to play, it would curtail the development of a younger player and I see it also as a backward step for West Indies' cricket," added the forward-thinking Hooper.

But the enigmatic Hooper immediately called on Caribbean people to rally behind the regional team.

"I take this opportunity to wish the team well in the upcoming series and urge the Caribbean public to continue with their support of the West Indies team," Hooper said.

The outgoing captain said he was never a selfish player throughout his 102-match Test career and his decision, though “a tough one”, was made because of “the direction West Indies was going in the immediate future”.

“It has never been about Carl Hooper. It’s never been about any one individual. What I can say to the Caribbean people is basically to continue to support the West Indies team,” Hooper said hours before pulling out of the regional team.

"We’ve got a lot of good young players and I think we are on the verge of something exciting but obviously we need the support from the (West Indies) Board and most importantly, the support from the general public,” added Hooper.

Subjected to a string of criticism during his two years as West Indies captain, the 36-year-old Hooper, who lost half of his 22 Tests as skipper and managed just four victories, has defended his modest record.

“I don’t want to throw stones. I was happy to work with the players that I had and I think they obviously gave me their best,” Hooper remarked.

“But no disrespect to them, if I had a Curtly Ambrose and a Courtney Walsh in my side, along with the same batting that I had, I guarantee that I would have won many more Test matches,” Hooper contended.

“I took over a West Indies team that was failing to even compete. We had England beating us in two days, Australia in a couple of days. It was bordering on the ridiculous,” Hooper said.

“I think in the two years, we have made strides. We went from being a side that probably wasn’t competing to a side that was beginning to at least show that we wanted to play some cricket and heading in the right direction,” Hooper charged.

“I think if you look at a side like South Africa. I could remember South Africa beating us 5-0 in the Test matches and 6-1 in the One-Days in South Africa (1998-1999) with Ambrose, Walsh and a lot of experienced players.

“They came down to the Caribbean, they beat us 5-2 and 2-1. We’ve always been strong at home so I expected the series there to be close but I can honestly say that in the last two times, we’ve played against the South Africans, we looked a much better side than they,” Hooper noted.

Hooper said he was not quite quitting the first-class cricket arena.

“I still want to play some first-class cricket, whether it be in the Caribbean, or England or South Africa or Australia, wherever, I still feel that I’ve got something left. I still think I can compete if not at the Test level, certainly at the first-class level,” Hooper said.

Hooper said he has taken the heavy doses of criticism of his performances over the years, in stride.

“It has never really bothered me. I’ve sort of moved on and continue doing what I do best - play cricket. I don’t think you could ignore the fact of 102 Test matches and 210-220 One-Day games,” Hooper said.

“Given my career, a lot of people say it has been controversial at times and chequered and that I should be dropped at times and so on but through it all, I think, I stood tall,” Hooper declared.

Hooper amassed 5 762 runs with 13 centuries at an average of 36.46 during his Test career.

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