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Hopeless Hooper

2nd  Feb. 2001

By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE
 

THE proposal of some for Carl Hooper as the next West Indies captain, only serves to highlight the feelings of desperation and exasperation on the part of many across the region.

After all, under normal circumstances, most people probably would not have opted for a 34-year old, only recently back from a year-and-a-half long "retirement" - following a twelve year test career in which he only demonstrated consistency for a brief period, between 1996 and 1998. Until then, he had always singled himself out as a top-order batsman of tremendous potential, who always found a way of frustrating West Indian fans with his knack of getting out cheaply. His knock of 98 in the first innings of Guyana's Busta Cup game against the West Indies 'B' team is proof of his talent. His test average of 33.76 reflects his "fail to deliver" mystique.

Nevertheless, he has been touted for the captaincy ever since indicating his availability for West Indies selection. This has coincided with another forgettable experience in Australia, during which the West Indies were swept 5-0 in a test series that included two innings defeats. In its one-day tournament loss to Zimbabwe, the West Indies was destroyed for 91 runs, with the subsequent ten-wicket defeat to Australia rubbing pepper into the already salted wound.

Not surprisingly, confidence in captain Jimmy Adams has waned considerably. Even if one were to discount the fact that he managed to score only 151 runs in the test series (for an average of 18.87), Adams would still be a target, as captain of a losing team. Again, the thinking is that, once the West Indies is being humiliated, a change in the captaincy is necessary for the ushering in of yet another "new dawn."

However a very bad pattern is emerging here. Clive Lloyd was West Indies captain for close to eleven - mostly glory-filled - years. Viv Richards and Richie Richardson served for six and five years, respectively. But, there have been three different captains since 1996, with Courtney Walsh and Brian Lara lasting about two years each and Adams facing growing criticism after only eleven months at the helm. We are clearly in the midst of a merry-go-round of captains - a by-product of consistent failure. Whoever is assigned to lead the team seems to last according to the tolerance level of the West Indies cricket community and, apparently, that level is very low right now.

Because Hooper, one of the few remaining links with the illustrious past, happened to throw his hat into the ring at the highest point of regional exasperation, he is at the top of some people's list of choices. But, it is a very short list. Ever since Lara, the one person that possessed the raw qualities to become an established captain - knowledge of the game, aggressive attitude etc - stepped down; there have simply been no outstanding candidates for the job. Adams has been unimpressive with the bat for a very long time, as pointed out there is a lot of uncertainty in Hooper's baggage, while others are either inexperienced or unsure of their place on the team to begin with.

So, the question is not who will be the next captain, but how many will be tried in the top position. The answer is likely to lie in the length of time during which West Indies cricket will continue to founder: and the passage of time before the best man finally emerges.