Omission of Pollard surprising, says Windies great Carl Hooper

Hooper – who featured in four World Cups – admits the lack of a quality spinner in the Windies side could hurt the two-time champion.

West Indies legend Carl Hooper said he would have somehow found a way to include Rishabh Pant in the squad.   -  PTI

Carl Hooper served West Indies cricket for 16 long years, and as the team gears up for yet another World Cup, the former captain wants Chris Gayle to fire.

“This might be his last World Cup, so hope for our sake he goes out with a bang and we can do well,” Hooper says, making it clear that a lot will depend on the 39-year-old Gayle’s experience.

In a chat with Sportstar, Hooper – who featured in four World Cups – admits the lack of a quality spinner in the Windies side could hurt the two-time champion.

What are your thoughts on this West Indies team? It looks quite a balanced side.

We have got a good ODI (One-Day International) team. But I think we might just find it difficult to go all the way because we lack a quality spinner. Sunil Narine’s omission is a big blow. You have got Ashley Nurse, who is an off-spinner. He will have to bowl really, really well for us to push and go all the way to the semifinal and final stages.

Coming to the composition of the squad, there is a nice blend of youth and experience and we always need the experienced players to lead from the front.

With the experience of Chris Gayle, things look quite exciting for West Indies. Do you feel so?

It’s good to have Chris Gayle back. He was there to help us qualify in Zimbabwe. He obviously will open the batting and we will count on his experience hugely if we are gonna do well in the tournament. He will be looking to sign off on a good note. But this might be his last World Cup, so I hope for our sake he goes out with a bang and we can do well.

The young players need to step up and they have already shown signs that they are willing to do that. Shai Hope had a wonderful run of form in the triangular series in Ireland. He also played well in India quite recently and also against England. He is one of the young outstanding players who will be looked at in the World Cup. We have got Shimron Hetmyer, who just had his first IPL. He is young and fresh. He will be looking to play his first World Cup. In terms of seniors, it’s good to have Andre Russell back in the squad. We have got captain Jason Holder. There is a lot of experience here and a nice mix of young and experienced players. There is a nice balance.

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The surprise element is the omission of someone like Kieron Pollard (though he has now been named as a standby). He has played a lot of white-ball cricket for the West Indies and has featured in 400-plus T20 (Twenty20) games and I don’t know how many 50-over games! His omission can be looked as surprising. I don’t think he has played a World Cup before. He had a good run in the IPL. He is the one who could have been included (in the final side). Him being in the side would have been a plus. But looks like the selectors had different thoughts.

One of the areas that is a question mark is that we have obviously got a new coach in Floyd Reifer. It’s gonna be tough for him. I have worked with Floyd. I know he will give his best. That’s an area that you want to be cautious about. I am sure he has got good support staff in Corey Collymore. Planning and implementation of strategies will be critical. Cricket has changed from our days. That’s got nothing to do with cricket on the field, but it has got to do with cricket off the field. I hope everything goes smoothly with new support staff. It’s a big ask. We have got a new president, who decided to remove earlier coach Richard Pybus, who had a good series against England. This was sort of a late move, implementing a new coach. He had very little time to prepare, even though he has been there around the set-up.

Which are the teams that you would like to see in the last four?

Well, if you pick four teams for the final stage, you can’t go past England and India. I would like to see the West Indies somewhere and maybe New Zealand. But then, you have also got South Africa. So, I would say, it’s India, England, New Zealand and hopefully the West Indies. This is a very good chance for India to win the World Cup.

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You have got a standout leader and a fantastic player in Virat Kohli. You have got excellent players to support him. You have covered the seam bowling department, the spin department. I have never seen an Indian team which is very equipped to win the World Cup. Let’s see what happens. Cricket is a funny game. You have got to watch hosts England. They are playing at home, know the conditions well and they play the conditions very well. It is going to be an exciting World Cup.

Is there any one player that you would have liked to see in the World Cup?

I understand the exclusion of Rishabh Pant. In a squad of 15, you would probably want only one keeper and you must pick Dhoni not because he is Dhoni, but because he has continued to perform well. He has had a good One-Day series against the Aussies when he came out. His experience is invaluable. I would have still liked to see Pant in the side, even as a batsman. He is an exciting player. He did well when he was in Australia.

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I would have found a way to put him in the squad, even as a batsman. Maybe he would have fielded somewhere at fine-leg, third-man, mid-off or mid-on, somewhere. But I certainly feel he is a good enough One-Day player to be there somewhere in the batting line-up. He scores quickly, he has got a game that’s ideally suited to one-day cricket. He is a free-flowing player who can hit a lot of boundaries and sixes and so on. It’s a shame, but I understand the dilemma the Indian selectors are in. But I am just disappointed he hasn’t been selected. But hey, he is a young fellow and he will have many more World Cups ahead of him.

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