The ‘very Indian’ guy from Guyana
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?