After taking over the West Indies captaincy on his home ground Bourda for the South Africa tour to the Caribbean in 2001, Guyanese Carl Hooper was sacked as West Indies captain after the World Cup and controversial batting star Brian Lara appointed skipper of the regional team.
The sacking of Hooper after just under three years in the job came as a major surprise to most cricket followers who share the view that replacing the 36-year-old Hooper with Lara, who will be 34 this month is a backward step for West Indies cricket.
Former Jamaica and West Indies test batsman Maurice Foster told Stabroek Sport that he was surprised when he learned that Lara had replaced Lara especially since the Trinidad and Tobago left-hander had said recently that he was not interested in the position.
“Lara gave up the job three years ago and only recently indicated he was not interested in being captain. What this (appointment) has also shown is that there is no unity among the selectors and also that the WICB directors accepted their proposal” Foster told Stabroek Sports on Monday.
The one time record holder for most regional first class centuries (13) added that he was not taking anything away from the ability of the double world batting record holder but was looking at the principle involved in the whole affair.
Foster feels the appointment of 22-year-old Guyana middle order batsman Ramnaresh as Vice Captain is a good move in the right direction. “Sarwan has a lot to offer West Indies cricket and I am happy with his appointment. Hooper would have been the best person for him to be vice- captain to since they have played a lot together at international and regional level and seem to get on well with each other. In all this however I feel the West Indies supporters should rally round the captain and his team as we take on the tough Australians” Foster advised.
Joe Solomon, another former West Indies test batsman, said he was shocked and disappointed when he heard that Lara had taken over from Hooper as captain.
Solomon, famous for his run out of the last man in the first tied test in Australia does not support Sarwan’s appointment and would have preferred to see Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the deputy.
“ First of all I was amazed that the selectors came up with two names which shows that they are not working together and maybe have their own ideas about who should hold the top position in the West Indies team” Solomon told this newspaper on Monday. The chairman of the Guyana senior selection panel explained that in his mind Sarwan, one of the best young batsmen in world cricket, is too young to be burdened with the responsibility of being vice-captain.
“ Let Sarwan establish him self as an outstanding batsman without worrying about being vice-captain since I feel it could affect his cricket. Leading players who are more senior to him in age and experience could also cause problems for the young man. I would have given Chanderpaul, he is a senior player and has been around the team since 1994” Solomon stated.
He added that he does not feel Lara’s appointment, as skipper will make a big difference to the result of the Australia series.
“Both Lara and Hooper are in their mid-thirties and picking Lara and not sticking with Hooper is a backward step. If you sack Hooper to give a young person fine... but Lara gave up the job and now he wants it again and he gets it....I can’t see the wisdom in this at all “ Solomon stated.
Veteran regional cricket commentator Joseph ‘Reds’ Perriera disclosed that he was surprised that the WICB has gone for a new captain at this point in view of Hooper’s overall performance in the last two years leading a fairly young side with batting and bowling difficiencies.
“He won the home series 2-1 against India, beat Zimbabwe away, lost to New Zealand at home and beat India in the one-day series after losing the test series. Had not New Zealand given four points to Kenya and the game against Bangladesh was not washed out then the West Indies would have qualified for the super six stage of the World cup” Reds pointed out.
“The WICB has every right to look at the future and Sarwan, who is an assured member of the team was the overwhelming candidate for the vice-captaincy position. To move back to Lara, who I am sure will do a competent job on the field but has to work on other aspect of his leadership responsibilities, will only be a short term move by the Board. Lara’s problems as captain will be the same for Lara in terms of getting consistent performances from the batsmen and bowlers. A captain is as good as the material he has.” Perrriera stated.
“Hooper inherited a beaten side from Jimmy Adams and not having Walsh and Ambrose around did not help. Hooper took a bunch of talented youngsters and worked with them and I feel Sarwan would have learned a lot from being the under study to Hooper”
Hooper’s cricket has improved since he took over the captaincy. In his 22 matches as leader he has scored four centuries including his highest test score and only test double hundred (232 against India at Bourda last year). His batting average as skipper is 45.95 while he is as fit now as anytime in his career.
The elegant Guyanese who hit a top class unbeaten 130 in the Carib Beer semi-final against Jamaica on Tuesday at Albion say he still has the desire to play at the highest level. Judging from his batting at Albion, he is easily still among the best batsmen in the region.