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Hooper's elevation

FROM wondering whether Jimmy Adams would be captain, the populace of the Caribbean is now left wondering exactly the other extreme - will the man get even a single Test against South Africa? Though there have been serious reservations whether a man who more or less deserted the team at a time of need should be made captain, that is exactly what has been done. Carl Hooper is now captain, a post which he may well feel should have been his after Walsh was deposed.

Apart from his seeming inability to communicate with his teammates, Hooper has been faulted for one thing - not trying hard enough to use the abundant talent which he undoubtedly possesses. Gary Sobers has been extremely critical of him and so have many senior West Indies cricketers. It is also well-known that there is no love lost between Hooper and team's prima donna, Brian Lara. Whatever Adams's faults, he had no problem in getting along with Lara.

The sad aspect of this whole business is that one had no other choice. Apart from Hooper, there was no other candidate. Everybody was disqualified on some ground or the other. Walsh is playing in what would be his last series. Lara does not want to be captain; he is said to have been offered the leadership again but refused it. Chanderpaul was ruled out because of his recent absence from the team. Campbell isn't in the squad. Jacobs is deemed too inexperienced.

The scenario was similar when Lara gave up the captaincy. Adams was the only candidate who was capable (so it seemed at the time) of holding the team together. He did so for a while but failed in England and Australia. I was hoping the West Indies officials would give him a chance to restore pride at home; no matter what their record abroad is, the West Indies have lost only one series at home since 1972-73 when Ian Chappell's Australians won there. Since then, only Mark Taylor's team has beaten the Windies at home, in 1995. But Adams's miserable showing with the bat would probably have led to the man's ouster.

There is some indication of fresh thinking among the West Indies selectors in choosing some new faces in the squad. There is a measure of idiocy as well - in choosing bowlers like Nixon McLean who, after 17 Tests, has best figures of three for 53. Cameron Cuffy's ability has at last been recognised. Mervyn Dillon hasn't been called up but that is due to his recent injury and he will play in the tour match against South Africa. There will be merit in calling up new players if they are given some time to prove their worth. It is often the case that players get a Test or two to prove their worth and are then jettisoned forever. It happened when the Australians visited the Caribbean.

While an exciting and even series would be any observer's dream, it is a bit much to hope for. South Africa are far too strong for the West Indies and while the home factor may be an advantage, past records cannot be called upon to justify the conclusion that the West Indies will continue to do well at home. Such arguments were advanced by many pundits before India took on Australia and the result of the first Test is evidence of the myopia that the said pundits exhibited.

Five Tests. If the West Indies win one, they should be happy. A drawn series would be cause for celebration. A win is too much to hope for. South Africa will keep the trophy for Test between these countries, that's quite certain. Beyond that, given the unpredictable nature of the West Indies team and the even more unpredictable captain they have now, I would not like to say a word.