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Captain by Merit

16 March 2001


IT seems that, over the past week, the appointment of Carl Hooper to the captaincy of the West Indies cricket team has been transformed into something of a controversy.

At least here in Trinidad and Tobago and, judging by the negative reactions of former greats Sir Gary Sobers and Michael Holding, perhaps in Barbados and Jamaica, as well as other Caribbean countries as well. With the exception of Guyana where many, including President Bharrat Jagdeo, had been clamouring for Hooper’s ascendancy into his present position since January. Indeed, it seems that the Hooper-for-Captain campaign started rolling the very second he announced his availability, once again, for West Indies selection.

This, of course, was three months ago when the West Indies were being pummelled in Australia, Jimmy Adams was not doing anything much to encourage a vote of confidence on his behalf and doom and gloom were the order of the day. Based on such an atmosphere, it should not come as a surprise – at least not to Hooper’s supporters – that the 34-year old right-hander was promoted back into the team as captain. This in spite of the fact that Hooper is returning to the fold after a two-year “retirement,” following a career in which he often disappointed more than he delivered. An immensely talented player, Hooper would serve up a brilliant innings one moment, then induce himself into a soft dismissal the next. It wasn’t until the tour of Australia 1996-97 that he finally displayed the consistency that he has lacked earlier. The good form would continue through the subsequent home series against India, away to Pakistan and back at home to England. But, it seemed, had set in, once again, by the tour of South Africa, more than two years, in which he looked overweight and was out of form. It was just after the home battle with Australia, and prior to the 1999 World Cup, that Hooper announced his decision to hang-up his bat, pads and gloves.

Now he is back, as captain, and many are not pleased with these new circumstances. Hooper’s past performances are being recalled and it appears that many are questioning what has Hooper done to earn his selection to the West Indies team, as captain. To be perfectly honest, under normal circumstances, it would be very hard to support the latter action – appointing Hooper as captain. However, in the column published in the edition of February 2 it was made clear that right now, in the West Indies, there are simply no outstanding candidates for the job. Adams’ poor form was defeating his cause, Brian Lara decided to give up amidst mounting pressure. Others, such as Sherwin Campbell, had problems with form that cancelled out the experience that they do possess, while the rest of the team members are simply too young to be burdened with what has become a hot seat.

So, on one hand, it seems that anybody can become captain and that the WICB might just as well appoint Wavell Hinds to the job. But, Hooper had a major thing going for him, something that may well have boosted his candidacy and gave him the edge over his competitors: the fact that he definitely earned his selection to the team as a player. The Guyanese captain simply had an awesome Busta Cup season with a record equalling four centuries, for a total of 954 runs and an average of 95.40 putting him second overall.

How can one not select Hooper to the team? It is obvious that he is making an effort to draw upon his undisputed skills to help the cause of West Indies cricket. The fact that he has truly led by example by carrying his outstanding form into the first test is cause for celebration rather than consternation.

Yes, Hooper may have had some fortune in falling into the top slot. But, it is also true that, for the moment, his credentials for being on the team are indisputable and, in terms of selecting players to the team, that is how things should be.