Hoop's Chin Is Up
A few reflections and the encouragement of Sir Viv Richards have banished Carl Hooper's blues. So disconsolate after the West Indies' first-round elimination from the World Cup that he said he would "definitely be looking at my future with the team and rethinking my role as captain", he spoke cheerily yesterday of looking forward to next month's home series against Australia in the Caribbean "with eagerness".
While admitting he was "really gutted" by the early exit after losses to New Zealand and Sri Lanka and the critical rained-out match against Bangladesh that cost two points, he now saw it as "just a minor setback".
"At no time at all did I consider being knocked out in the preliminary round as I think we're a much better team than that," he said prior to the last match here today against Kenya, the surprise qualifiers for the next round, the Super Sixes. "It's something we've got to overcome," he added. "I've had a few days to think about it and I look forward to the Australian tour with eagerness."
He confirmed he had discussed the subject with Sir Viv, the chairman of selectors, a former captain and an avowed fan of his. "I had a chat with the chairman basically because, at the end of the day, you want to have a clear and concise picture of where we go from here," he explained.
It now seems clear and concise that he will be reappointed captain for the four Tests against the Australians, by record and reputation if not by the International Cricket Council's peculiar ratings, the strongest team in the game. Hooper, 36, and a veteran of 102 Tests and 226 One-day Internationals, has been captain for two years since he came out of sudden retirement prior to the 1999 World Cup and was immediately appointed to succeed Jimmy Adams.
"It's good to have the support, not only of the chairman but any sort of support," he said. "It's very important now to rally around each other. It's been a very, very big [psychological] blow to the team," he added. "There's just over a month before the first Test against Australia in Guyana (April 10-14) and we've definitely got to try and regroup as a team. Obviously, people will take a little bit of time to look at themselves and to see where they go from here but, as a team, we've collectively got to be well prepared for the Australians."
His contention was that the team's progress could not be judged by "an isolated tournament". "We've got to look back over the last few years and see where we've come from and I think we've made steps along the way," he said. "The Australian tour will be a good test again and we've got the Sri Lankans immediately after that, so the next couple of months should be exciting."
The West Indies have won two and lost five of the seven Test series under Hooper with a match ratio of four victories, 11 defeats and seven draws. He was buoyed by the 4-3 triumph over India in the One-Day series in India last November and victory over South Africa in the World Cup opener. But poor cricket led to narrow defeats by New Zealand, by 20 runs, and Sri Lanka, by six runs, that put the West Indies out.
Hooper himself has had a poor World Cup, his first since 1992. He scored 93 runs in four innings at an average of 23.25, and had three wickets at an average of 55.33 and an economy rate of 5.03.
He needs to reassert himself again against Australia or his position would be in more jeopardy than it is at present.