It’s been a difficult tour for the West Indies and, being the captain, it’s been tough on Carl Hooper. Failing to lead from the front hasn’t made it any easier. The final Test, though, is ‘alive’ and the one-day series is yet to begin. Opportunities, then, for Hooper — who recently spoke to The Telegraph — to get the act right.
The following are excerpts
On what actually made him quit cricket just before the 1999 World Cup
Ninety per cent of the decision was influenced by family matters… Our son (Carl Junior) had just been born and he wasn’t keeping well… There was a bit of cricket-related pressure as well, not that I couldn’t have overcome that.
On talk that not getting the captaincy had begun to bother him
Absolutely untrue. I never thought of the captaincy… (After a pause) Now that I’ve been captain, I can understand why the likes of Jimmy Adams and Brian Lara got affected.
On what made him return to big-time cricket
I hadn’t quit either because I had a major injury or was playing poorly… So… Some people did have plenty of harsh things to say but, at the end of the day, I was in the driver’s seat and all decisions were mine alone… I would have been perfectly happy doing my bit for Guyana only, after coming back from Adelaide… Being a West Indian, my heart and soul can only be in the West Indies, isn’t it'
On whether, at any time, teammates too had requested him to take back his retirement
Surprisingly, no… Much as one may have buddies, once it’s over, it’s over… Obviously, cricket is important to me. At the same time, it isn’t the No. 1 priority. The family has always been important, as also God. In fact, God first.
On whether he missed the limelight during the two years he was away from international cricket
I’m not that type… While I do love the game, I hate everything else that goes with it… Only, one has to accept everything as being part of the game. The ideal situation, really, would be to return to the family after the day’s play.
On whether the lack of “proper grounding,” as coach Roger Harper put it, is the principal reason for the West Indies’ continuing below-par performances
That and the pressure of expectations… As things are, most of the boys get to learn the game only when they make the West Indies side… I hate to say this, but it will take us quite some years to get back to where we were, say, in the Eighties.
On whether comparisons with Clive Lloyd’s team, for instance, makes it more difficult for the present lot
The difference is much the same as between chalk and cheese! Yes, it’s unfair…
On 15 years (break included) of international cricket
(Laughs) Nothing comes easy though, when I got a hundred in only my second Test (Eden, 1987-88), I did think nothing was easier than cricket at the highest level… With experience, I’ve learnt the bad days exceed the good ones and that when the good days come about, one should look at 150 instead of just a 40-50.
On whether, given a chance, he would change anything
Not that I have regrets, but I would definitely love to take on-board some of the things much earlier… Of course, this is not to suggest one is ever too old to learn.
On criticism about the attitude of some West Indians
Look, you shouldn’t be harsh… Moreover, most are very young and, so, bound to make mistakes. Please don’t crucify somebody after one failure. Equally, don’t hail somebody as the next Bradman after one innings.
On whether a decline in the quality of wickets has, generally, contributed to a decline in the quality of cricketers
Perhaps, yes… Some tracks are just not conducive to good cricket… You will still have a Sachin Tendulkar, but…
On learning from the captains he played under
First and foremost that the maroon cap is all about pride and passion… Viv (Richards), for example, embodied both… One learnt other things too. (After a pause) Actually, the captains I played under had such fine teams…
On his own experience as captain
Well, as I’ve said, I never thought I would captain the West Indies — for that matter, never thought I would captain Guyana… Indeed, captaincy wasn’t a big area of focus for me… I’ve been learning, it’s been a period of trial-and-error… I’ve been telling the boys we must be competitive and must be so over all five days of a Test. The next stage is going beyond just being competitive.
On what has he learnt as captain
Not to expect an overnight turnaround, that I should set small targets… Also, that irrespective of how you play, you will still only be judged by the result — not the effort. That’s the bottomline.
On who makes a good captain
Captaincy goes well beyond the playing field… You can’t, for instance, switch off being captain at stumps… The players may or may not wish to discuss purely personal problems but, as captain, you’ve got to have an open door. For the players to remain focussed, they must be comfortable off the field. A captain has a role there.
On whether he is as cool in the dressing room as he is on the field
(Smiles) Every individual is prone to moments of anger. Yet, what needs to be remembered is that cricket is a sport only and meant to be enjoyed.
On whether he agrees that a captain is only as good as his team
Totally… Give the most astute captain a poor side and even he won’t be able to do anything.
On whether he admires a contemporary captain
Nasser Hussain… He has turned a placid bunch into a team which wants to be competitive.
On whether even he has to do a Frank Worrell or a Lloyd and encourage players to shed that insular feeling
It’s different today… Not just cricket, but the world itself has changed…Even the computer is such a distraction. Nowadays, players don’t mind spending hours on the lap-top, as opposed to going over to a teammate and discussing the game… Looking back, I didn’t require much time to find my feet as the team had so many seniors who knew exactly what it took to succeed. I learnt much by interacting with them. Speaking generally, it’s unfair to expect youngsters to straightaway make an impact. But, yes, it’s important to have a high work-ethic and be disciplined.
On whether he is conscious of being seen as an ambassador for the sport, not just West Indies cricket
No, no… One does want to be seen in a positive manner, but what’s most important is my relationship with God and my family.
On his inspiration
Viv and Lloyd… Then, the late Ayrton Senna… Outside sport, it’s my (second) wife Constance.
Finally, on the future
At this moment, I’m looking to playing till the World Cup.