Hooper: West Indian Captain
The rehabilitation of Carl Hooper to the West Indian cricket team was made complete on Friday evening. The 34 year-old Guyanese batsman who stunned the cricketing world in April 1999 with his abrupt retirement from the international game is not just a member of the West Indian team again, but has been appointed captain for the five Test series against South Africa.
The appointment of Hooper as West Indian captain was announced on Friday by West Indies Cricket Board chief executive officer Gregory Shillingford, who explained that the captain had been chosen following a democratic process involving the president of the WICB and all twelve of its directors. Hooper's appointment came following the recommendation of the regional selection panel of Michael Findlay, Joey Carew, Joel Garner and Roger Harper.
Hooper, who has played in 80 Tests and 182 one-day internationals in a career which began in 1987, quit international cricket following the sixth game of a seven-game ODI series against Australia in 1999. He moved to Australia with his wife, who is Australian, and baby son. After playing a season of club cricket with Carlton in the Victorian Premier League he made himself available to play for Guyana in the 2000-01 Busta Cup, returning to the Caribbean days before the tournament began in January.
Hooper has had an extraordinary season with Guyana, having been named captain before the start of the Busta Cup. Before today's commencement of the Busta International Shield final against Jamaica at Sabina Park, Hooper has scored 889 runs for a batting average of 98.77, including four centuries. With the ball, he has taken 24 wickets at 24.20, opening the bowling on occasions to give variation to his usual off-spin.
Hooper's return to the West Indies side coincides, however, with Jimmy Adams' demise. The Jamaican left-hander who was the world's number one batsman on the Price-Waterhouse-Coopers ratings at one point, Adams has been omitted from the sixteen-man training squad for the West Indies Test side, almost certainly an indicator that he will not be a participant against the touring South Africans.
Adams was appointed West Indian captain in early 2000 to fill the void after Brian Lara stood down. Series successes against Zimbabwe and Pakistan were followed by an innings victory over England, only to eventually go down to England 3-1 with some humilating defeats. This was followed recently when the West Indies were on the receiving end of an 0-5 clean-sweep by the Australians.
Though Adams is hardly the only West Indian captain to lose every game of a Test series in recent years - both Lara and Courtney Walsh have been there and done that - his own batting form suffered appreciably in Australia. In the five Test series which ended in January, Adams scored 16*, 16, 0, 40*, 49, 15, 0, 0, 10 and 5.
In an brief official statement released by the WICB yesterday, the board said it "wishes to thank outgoing captain, Jimmy Adams, for his contribution and efforts in leading the West Indies team during a very testing period." "We wish him the very best in the future," the statement concluded.
Ironically, the two opposing captains in today's Busta Shield final are... Carl Hooper and Jimmy Adams. The match will be played at Sabina Park, Kingston, and is commencing on Saturday after a challenge by the Guyana Cricket Board forced its postponement for twenty-four hours.
The GCB had challenged the decision to allow Jamaica to host the shield final, claiming that Guyana should be the home team as they had accumulated more competition points in the round-robin. However, the WICB determined on Thursday that the rules of the competition stipulated that Jamaica had the right to be host team on the basis of a superior run-rate, after both teams finished with the same number of wins.
Adams, in an interview with CANA on Friday, appealed to fans in Kingston not to heckle Hooper during this weekend's final. "I don't see any reason to boo any player - certainly not Carl, who has done nothing but come back (from retirement) and represent his country with distinction," Adams said in the interview.