Cricket offers much in the way of variety, particularly with elements of bowling and batting. Some batsmen appear to have more style and talent than others. Carl Llewellyn Hooper was one such batsman. His batting was easy and effortless; to the extent that he was often referred to as “Cool Carl”.
The former West Indies captain and middle-order batsman was also given the back-handed compliment of being referred to as the greatest under-performer in Test cricket. Although he possessed a good record and was a regular for the West Indies, several cricket aficionados felt that “Cool Carl” didn’t scale the heights that his talent suggested. His runs were often accumulated with style and elegance. Yet when he scored a few runs, he’d characteristically get dismissed playing a careless attacking shot.
Born in 1966 at Georgetown, Guyana, Carl Hooper developed into a dashing right-handed batsman and off-break bowler. He made his First-class debut in the 1983/84 season for his native Guyana in the West Indies’ domestic tournament. Hooper’s First-class career spanned two decades; ending in 2004. In that period, he played 339 First-class matches in that period- with good returns.
From his 339 First-class matches, Carl Hooper scored 23,034 runs at a classy average of 47.68. That First-class average better represented his talent and ability. In the Test arena, Hooper was only good enough. In 102 Test matches, Hooper scored 5,762 runs at a moderate average of 36.46.
Hooper’s underperformance can be noted that his average- after he came out of retirement to captain the West Indies in 2001- was 45.67. Prior to that, Hooper averaged only 33.76. His highest Test score of 233 was made after his return to the West Indies team in 2001.
In the ODI version of the game, Hooper played 227 matches and scored 5,761 runs at an average of 35.34.
Carl Hooper’s bowling was also very useful. He was an occasional bowler who’d be called on to break partnerships. By no means was Carl Hooper a genuine all-rounder- certainly not in the Test arena. In the shorter version of the game, he took 193 wickets with an economy rate of 4.36. Hooper still managed to take 114 Test wickets at an average of 49.42. Yet, Geoff Boycott referred to Hooper’s off-break attempts as “Lollipop bowling”.
Based on his talent and experience, Carl Hooper enjoyed stints in England with Kent and Lancashire. Although Hooper was a regular in the West Indies side, he was something of an enigma. He often appeared nonchalant and disinterested in the field and even when he was batting.
His underachievement was a real disappointment to West Indies fans. Also, the manner in which he ruled himself out of the team before the 1999 World Cup tarnished his legacy. Like the prodigal son, he returned to the game in 2001 and enhanced his legacy. Still, his international career ended in disappointment and a degree of ignominy when he was discarded for good after a poor 2003 World Cup in South Africa.