Beating Carl Hooper’s drum By Ezra Stuart
Guyana Chronicle
October 2, 2003

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FORMER West Indies fast bowler Vanburn Holder believes Carl Hooper is still batting well enough to play Test cricket.

Holder, who is now a leading umpire in the English county championship, told MIDWEEKSPORT that Hooper created a stir with his elegant batting for Lancashire during this year’s English county championship.

A former Barbados captain, Holder has been living in England for the past three decades but is home on a two-week holiday, “I don’t know what went wrong with Carl Hooper and the West Indies team when he was captain but from what I saw on television and so, he looked to be doing a good job,” he said.

“But if they can do without Carl, they must be a strong team. He is still good enough to play Test cricket and we all know what he is capable of.”

Holder said he was not sure why the Guyanese batsman was out of West Indies cricket.

“Why is he out of it?” he asked. “Perhaps, he hasn’t produced for West Indies as he should but, ability-wise, I don’t think there are many players in the world who make the game look easier,” he remarked.

“Hooper is a tremendous cricketer and we all know that. He’s excelled this season in England,” added Holder, who has been umpiring for the past 12 years and is on the England Cricket Board’s panel of first-class umpires.

“Since he has gone to Lancashire, they are a different side, especially playing with the likes of (Australian) Stuart Law, who is another player you cannot understand why he is not playing Test cricket.

“Lancashire has done well to have, probably two of the best players in the world who are not playing Test cricket.”

According to Holder, out-of-favour fast bowler Nixon McLean also did well for Somerset, but there weren’t many other West Indian cricketers playing on the county circuit.

“He got nearly 70 wickets, which, bowling on that track (at Somerset), is very good, but there are not a lot of West Indians playing, which is strange. There tend to be more South Africans and Australians playing English cricket,” he said.

Holder, who represented Worcestershire in the county championship, said the English circuit was not the same as during the 1970s and 1980s when West Indians featured prominently.

“Once upon a time I think every county had a West Indian, but I don’t know why they are not playing up there anymore,” Holder said. However, he added that even though young West Indian cricketers would benefit from playing on the county circuit, their Test commitments would limit their involvement.

“The trouble is with so much Test cricket being played today, they play so often that these guys would only get two or three games and then they are gone away.

“It is strange but if one or two West Indians, like (Ramnaresh) Sarwan, get into county cricket, the same thing would happen,” Holder said. “They won’t be settled in county cricket because they will be required by their country and once there is a Test series on they will have to go, so the county then is left without the guys they are really paying for.

“So someone like Sarwan wouldn’t have learnt that much or won’t have gained that much knowledge if he only played three games. The same applies to the bowlers,” he added.

Holder also reckoned the level of play was not as high as it used to be.

“The standard has dropped a bit but the cricket is still good. I don’t know if the guys these days are as hungry as we were. We used to play, for instance, two games a week and, as a bowler, I used to bowl every day and there used to be declarations.

“Today, it is not that difficult and the kids are supposed to be fitter than we but the question is, are they fit for cricket, because they are always breaking down.”

Holder captured 109 wickets at an average of 33.27 in 40 Tests between 1969 and 1979. He took 950 wickets in 313 first-class matches at a commendable average of 24.52. (Barbados Nation)