Carl Hooper: India can afford to tie down players with contract, not WI

'If you ask me if I made enough money in 20 years as a player, I would say no. You cannot be upset with a guy who doesn’t want to sign a central contract as he wants to play in IPL or other leagues," former West Indies captain Carl Hooper said.

Carl Hooper at the SCA Stadium on Thursday.   -  Shayan Acharya

Former West Indies captain Carl Hooper set foot in India after 16 long years. A lot had changed during the time, in the landscape of the country and the cricketing world.

The legendary all-rounder, currently here as part of the radio commentary team for the Test series, spoke to Sporstar on a range of issues.

Excerpts…

West Indies has suffered a big blow as its captain Jason Holder is out of the first Test with injury. Has that put the team under pressure?

It is always tough when you lose your captain, even more so as Jason is one our frontline bowlers and a handy lower order batsman. In a two-Test series, the last thing you want to do is not have your captain for the first Test. It is a big blow, but then it gives opportunity to the young players. We have got Sherman Lewis making his debut.

 I think that’s something the selectors gave consideration to. In case someone breaks down, who is the next person? He gets his opportunity and he would like to make the most of the opportunity. He has nothing to lose, but he can take off from here with a five-for.

 "The cricketers have a job to do, of course, but in the end, it is the policies implemented by board that will drive things forward."

 

There was a time when West Indies cricketers ruled the world, but there has been a decline over the years. As a former captain, how do you see this?

Well, I have been sad for a long time. I am still optimistic though. I hope I live to see the day West Indies cricket regains the status it once had. We still have a lot of work to do. Every time I am asked how to improve on things, I say that the answer lies with the board. The board has got to implement policies that it will take us in the right direction. The cricketers have a job to do, of course, but in the end, it is the policies implemented by board that will drive things forward.  

There is a belief that the T20 leagues like the Indian Premier League have affected West Indies cricket immensely. Ever since the emergence of T20 leagues, most of the players have preferred to play for franchises over country. What are your thoughts?

We should have seen this coming. T20 cricket is here to stay. In fact, you have got more leagues in play than five years ago. It is crazy. It is going to affect us because for any young West Indies player, the ultimate aim is to sign a contract with an IPL side. So it would have a bearing on his availability. The IPL is just a six-week window but we have had situations where we have had someone like Sunil Narine, who picked up fifer in his last Test, has not played for us again. Same goes for Gayle and Kieron Pollard. I am not saying they are finished products in the longer format but at 26-27, if Pollard played Test cricket, he could have developed as a good Test cricketer. But he stuck to the shorter formats. Evin Lewis just decided push back and refused to sign the central contract. He is good enough to play Test cricket.

"The standard is good enough that [Prithvi] Shaw can be in Test cricket by now. In West Indies, the first-class level is not good enough. We can’t say a guy is ready. There is more work to be done at the highest level."

 

But Holder said that guys playing the Carribean Premier League are passionate about Tests..

Is this the strongest West Indies team? Do you think a Dwayne Bravo or a Darren Bravo would come in handy now? The proof is in the pudding. It is what it is. T20 is good cricket, but it affects us as we are not able to contract our big stars. Someone like a Shimron Hetmyer, who had a very good CPL and is highly-rated, is beginning to look this way (India). Now he can be picked up in the IPL and I would hate to lose him in the IPL.

As a former captain, have you ever thought of stepping into the scene to change things? Maybe a coaching role with the West Indies?

I love coaching at the junior level (13-18 years) where they are looking to get better. Your (India's) first class is probably good enough, it filters out the flaws in a player coming through. The standard is good enough that [Prithvi] Shaw can be in Test cricket by now. In West Indies, the first-class level is not good enough. We can’t say a guy is ready. There is more work to be done at the highest level. It is the 16-19 system which is failing at first class level. But trust me, there is talent.

You said that you like coaching the young guns, so have you approached the West Indies board?

I have been in Australia for 21 years. It is just not about the West Indies board, we also have a lot of individual boards like Guyana. We have got enough legendary cricketers around who are quite knowledgeable and can create the system by helping at the school or school level. But they don’t really do it. Legends or ex-greats mentor a CPL side which is not much of a contribution. Maybe a Lara or an Ambrose could work with juniors, like you have Dravid here.

Should Lara and Hooper come together and do something?

The idea is good, but then, any policy that needs to be implemented has to be driven by the West Indies cricket board. A few years back, we had an academy and I was in the academy for 10 weeks, it was good. We had Shanon Gabriel there, then there was Jason Holder. We had Shane Dowrich. It was just about fine-tuning the talents. Let’s say, a player comes there and you find something to done, you give him feedback and guide him on what to do. You can go to the academy and concentrate on areas. But now, the academy is abolished.

You spoke about the impact of T20 leagues. Do you think that the West Indies board needs to be tough on the contract policies and not allow players to play in overseas leagues?

Look, the shorter versions of the game curtails our progress. We always have a young player going off, whatever his reasons are. I am not going to judge him, it could be financial. If you ask me if I made enough money in 20 years as a player, I would say no. You got to take that into equation. You cannot be upset with a guy who doesn’t want to sign a central contract as he wants to play in IPL or other leagues. It is a tough situation we are in. The Indian board (BCCI) can afford to contract its key players, and we will never see Indian players in the CPL. The Australian board can say David Warner that you play one league and you can’t play the other, but we cannot do that.

Why do you think so many young cricketers fall for T20 leagues and focus on earning as much as possible? Is it because that life after cricket could be uncertain, so make the most of the situation now?

You have to take that into consideration too. You cannot guarantee anything after cricket. I will give you an example, a guy (like me) arrives in India after 16 years, and I see Kohli featuring in various advertisements. He earns a fortune. He can stop today, but not one of our boys can stop today. It is the fact.

These days international cricket is muddled with corruption scandals. Do you think that it is possible to get rid of corruption completely?

It is all over, not just cricket. Can you get rid of that? I love Formula 1 racing and I could not (believe) when Renault instructed the other driver to crash for Fernando Alonso. It is unbelievable. So…