OF recent times, I have had occasion to mention Colin Croft in these pages quite a bit, stemming from the rather unrealistic assessments he makes of West Indies cricket. This time, Croft has gone one better - he was probably hallucinating when he made his latest contribution to a cricket site which aims to dominate coverage of the game down the line.
Now I know Croft is from Guyana. And I know that Carl Hooper, the latest experiment as West Indies captain, is from the same country. But jingoism has to stop somewhere. Just because a man from your own country is made captain of the West Indies, he does not suddenly become a combination of the late Sir Frank Worrell, Clive Lloyd and Sir Vivian Richards. When a man is described as such after being leader for two Tests, one of which was lost in traditional West Indies style, one has to really call into question the sanity of the person who makes these observations.
Let me consider his fanciful arguments one by one. First, he tries to insist that there are similarities between Sir Frank and Hooper because the former refused to tour India on one occasion; he thought the pay was too little. Hooper was one of the ringleaders of the shameful episode in 1998-99 when the West Indies threatened to pull out of a politically sensitive tour of South Africa unless they were paid more. That someone can even try to compare the two instances is an indication of some kind of brain damage. But let's take a closer look at this.
Sir Frank's action came at a time when the West Indies were still clinging to their colonial mentality and refusing to make a black man, however talented, captain. C.L.R. James was a leader of the campaign to have a black man as captain. These were days when white men earned more than their black counterparts for doing exactly the same job. Contrast this with the sordidness of the West Indies fight for more money en route to South Africa - this tour was the first by a black team after the lifting of the apartheid restrictions. The South African government was promoting it no end, as a means to encourage black kids into the sport and make it popular among them. The West Indies cricketers were, before that tour at least, heroes to black kids in South Africa. And this bunch, with no sense of history, were interested in holding people to ransom for a few dollars and cents. Could any two instances be more different?
Next, Croft gives a brief account of the contributions made by Sir Frank, Lloyd and Richards to West Indies cricket. And then, we are told that Hooper is an innovative captain who is aware. All based on a few statements made by Hooper and the two Tests against South Africa. Croft can see miracles within the team and he is very confident that Hooper will lead a transformation of West Indies cricket, eventually being of such stature standing besides Sir Frank, Lloyd and Richards. I cannot help but laugh when he says that Hooper is already being referred to as the "elder statesman" of West Indies cricket and that this is NOT because he has got the captaincy at 34!!!
So we are told that Hooper has a cool, unobtrusive presence, has the respect of players and has taken to the position like a duck to water. I remember hearing similar statements from Croft when Jimmy Adams was made captain. For those who are still unaware, Adams is no longer even a member of the team. The fact that one youngster, Marlon Samuels, dotes on Hooper, is taken as evidence that the man is a great captain. Samuels, we are told, nurtures ambitions of being captain one day. No harm in that. But to draw these kinds of conclusions about Hooper after just two Tests is dangerous and misleading.
To end his wishful dreams, Croft suggests that Hooper's captaincy will eventually be suggested (sic) as a combination of the reincarnation of Sri Frank, Lloyd and Richards. (the English Croft uses is often incorrect; correction is beyond the scope of this article). May I inquire whether this whole litany of praise was sung in order to try and deflect some of the criticism of Hooper that has come from people with genuine credentials and commitment to West Indies cricket, people like Michael Holding and Sir Garfield Sobers? There seems to be no other reason. Even though Croft is inclined to jump the gun (he was a volatile person as a cricketer too) quite often, this kind of trash does seem a bit rich.
Predicting things in cricket is difficult. Predicting things about West Indies cricket is more difficult. There are times when people who claim to be journalists can shrug off what they have written and say it was an aberration. Not in this case. The whole raft of arguments which Croft uses are far too silly to be passed off as the feverish working of a deluded brain. Sir Frank, Lloyd and Richards are not men to be taken lightly, not in the context of what they have done for the cause of West Indies cricket and for black people at large. By attempting to mount feeble arguments about Hooper and try to place him in this league, Croft is doing grave injustice to three of the finest men who have graced the cricket field.