Hooper Wants To Make A Difference
He may be 25 years older and a few pounds heavier than when he walked out at Kensington Oval as an 18-year-old to score a magnificent debut century for Guyana against Barbados in 1985. Last week, just short of his 43rd birthday, Carl Hooper (unofficially knighted ‘Sir Carl’ by his adoring Bajan fan club) evoked much the same emotions as he has done whenever he steps foot on the hallowed Kensington Oval sward.
Hooper was in Barbados for the Inaugural Cricket Legends of Barbados (CLOB) Masters 20/20 competition and the standing ovations he received each time he came out to bat was testimony to his ability to entertain with his spine-tingling stroke-play even if his average of 36.46 from 102 Tests can be considered under achievement for a man blessed with the natural ability to caress a cricket ball with effortless grace, elegance and class.
Watching his fans actually leave the ground in the middle of the last 2 Masters’ matches when Hooper, hampered by influenza, failed to get going, emphasized the effect he still has on crowds at a venue where he has scored 5 high-class First-Class tons. Hooper has been living in Australia with his ‘Aussie’ wife Connie for the past 10 years and his 10-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter are both born Australians.
In an exclusive interview with Kaieteur Sport, the former Guyana and West Indies Captain disclosed that he is planning to re-migrate with his family and wants to play a role in the revival of Guyana and West Indies cricket. Hooper made his regional first class debut with a breathtaking 126 in Barbados in 1985 before almost single-handedly giving Guyana the Regional U-19 title at home later that year and a fluent 58 in his only ‘youth Test’ against Young England that same year in Barbados helped to generate his huge Bajan fan club.
"It was March 31, 1995, West Indies v Australia, Bridgetown: the first morning of the first Test. Australia, off to a flyer, had taken 3 wickets for 6 when Cool Carl walked to the crease. Immediately Shane Warne was brought into the attack to bowl the 10th over of the series. He went round the wicket. The first ball was met yards down the pitch and deposited in the air to the long-on boundary. Down the pitch to the second, Hooper inside-edged to fine leg for four more. The third received the same treatment as the first: 12 from the first three balls. By lunch, Hooper and Brian Lara, in a memorable counter-attack, had put on precisely 100 together. That was Hooper’s potential," wrote Mike Selvey for the cricinfo website.
"I love playing here (Barbados). I always get a tremendous reception from the spectators and cricket is still very big here. I was asked by Joel (Garner) to play in this Masters tournament and I readily agreed," explained Hooper, one of the few West Indians to score a century at Lords when he made 111 against England in 1991. Hooper, the first West Indian to register 5000 runs, 100 wickets and 100 catches at Test, First-Class and ODI levels, revealed that he has recently sold his business in Australia and wants to return to live in the West Indies.
"My kids are getting older now and I want them to experience the other side of their culture. Their dad is West Indian and their mom Australian. I want them to understand who they really are. Connie is an amazing woman and she is willing to live wherever I go," Hooper, who scored a century against India at Eden Gardens in 1987 in his 2nd Test, said. Despite his overall record, Hooper was one of the best players of spin bowling at the International level. His average of 48.46 from 19 Tests against India with 5 tons and 45.36 from 14 Tests against Pakistan with 3 hundreds and his success against Shane Warne shows his class against slow bowling. He is a certified Level 2 cricket Coach and coaches in Australia.
Hooper, who averaged close to 50 in his last 22 Tests as West Indies Skipper, will be going for his Level 3 certificate in February next year. "I am still involved in cricket with my son’s school and I am keen to make an input in the West Indies. I will be in Trinidad for a few days and then I will be Guyana for Christmas. I will have a chat with Terry Holder from the Guyana Cricket Board to see how I can assist," Hooper said. The elegant right-hander, who has scored 13 tons and 27 fifties and taken 114 wickets from his 102 Tests, explained that he has a few options, one of which is being involved in the planned West Indies Academy in Barbados.
"I really want to come back home. All of my kids’ friends are Australians. Going to school in the West Indies should be a wonderful experience for them to become well rounded individuals. My son is a very decent cricketer but he also likes football and is good at it. I will not force him to play cricket. He has to love it. You have to love anything that you do if you really want to do it well and enjoy doing it," Hooper disclosed. Hooper, who averages 47.68 from 339 First-Class matches with 69 hundreds, says that a Rugby scout in Australia has also shown some interest in his son.
"He is big for his age. He is a really strong lad and once he goes back to Guyana and gets into the school and youth system he can qualify to play cricket for Guyana. If he wants to play cricket seriously, in my heart I would love for him to play for the West Indies but he is also Australian and it will be his choice," Hooper said.
If Hooper returns to the land of his birth to live the benefits for the youths at his club GCC and throughout Guyana could be tremendous. It is hoped that even if Guyana’s most successful all-round cricketer is stubbed by a cricket board headed by a president who played a role when the captaincy was taken away from him and given to Brian Lara at a time when the team was beginning to ‘gel’ under his leadership, he will still play an unofficial role in helping Guyana’s cricket develop at a time when the game, both on and off the field is in tatters and some administrators appear to have gotten power drunk.