The ‘very In­dian’ guy from Guyana

Sportstar - - FOND MEMORIES CARL HOOPER - SHAYAN ACHARYA

If you are Carl Llewellyn Hooper, In­dia has got to be spe­cial. Af­ter all, this is where the former West Indies cap­tain made his Test de­but in 19■7. It is also where he had his last out­ing in whites, in 2002. By his own ad­mis­sion, In­dia is a "cricket mad" na­tion, and it has been close to his heart for more rea­sons than one.

Grow­ing up in Guyana, where most of his neigh­bours were of In­dian de­scent, Hooper was sur­rounded by the smell of cur­ries and spices, and he de­vel­oped a taste for them.

As the 51­year­old gears up to visit the coun­try af­ter nearly 16 years, this time as a ra­dio com­men­ta­tor for the In­dia­west Indies Test se­ries, he gives in to nos­tal­gia about the coun­try he “loves.”

“I have fond mem­o­ries of In­dia. When I played my 100th Test (in 2002), the then BCCI pres­i­dent (Jag­mo­han Dalmiya) gave me a beau­ti­ful tro­phy. It was won­der­ful," Hooper told Sport­star from his res­i­dence in Ade­laide. The start of his love af­fair with In­dia, how­ever, was rocky. When he vis­ited the coun­try for the first time in 19■7, he did not like it as much be­cause in the early days of the tour he fell ill and could not savour In­dian cur­ries.

“Ini­tially, I did not like it. In Guyana, 65­70 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is In­dian. We cel­e­brated all In­dian fes­tiv­i­ties like Di­wali. I was very fa­mil­iar with the culture. But on my first tour to In­dia, I got sick.

“At that time, we had an Aus­tralian physio, Den­nis Waight. He gave us do’s and don’ts and we were not sup­posed to have any­thing wa­tery. Cur­ries were out and we were given solid food,” he says.

Af­ter a cou­ple of weeks of fol­low­ing the pre­scribed diet, Hooper fell ill. “I lost a lot of weight and there were blis­ters in my mouth and on the tongue. I could not eat any­thing, so I had to take liq­uids, and they had to be cold. I was sick for the first two weeks, and af­ter I re­cov­ered, I de­cided to eat ev­ery­thing. I loved In­dian food. Af­ter that, I was fine, and I en­joyed the tour.”

Ev­ery time he toured In­dia, the ex­cite­ment of fans bowled Hooper over. “You guys are cricket mad,” he laughs. “In In­dia, the at­mos­phere has al­ways been elec­tric.”

He re­mem­bers the fi­nal of the Hero Cup at the Eden Gar­dens in 1993. “It was just crazy. Even when I scored my first Test cen­tury against In­dia, I re­mem­ber how the peo­ple would cheer. Manin­der Singh was bowl­ing and I turned him be­hind square for two to pick up my first Test cen­tury. That was an amaz­ing feel­ing.”

But then, what makes In­dia so spe­cial?

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