Cricket: Adams ready to claim an opening slot: Hooper's understudy demonstrates value to West Indies

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The Independent Online
IT IS as much an indictment of West Indian selection policy as an indication of their present batting depth that Jimmy Adams is playing only his fifth Test since first appearing against South Africa two years ago.

But for injuries to Carl Hooper, he would have had three Tests fewer and almost certainly would not have got a game here. Yet, once again, Adams used the opportunity to underscore his value.

He is the type who lends balance to the order, a solid, level-headed batsman with immense patience and, for good measure, left-handed. He makes the perfect foil for the aggressive strokemakers on whom the West Indies have always depended.

Larry Gomes, also left- handed and unspectacularly effective, filled the role with distinction in the Lloyd- Richards era.

It is difficult to understand Adams's repeated absences. His temperament was confirmed in his debut Test in which his unbeaten, second-innings 79 and the vital runs he coaxed from the tail-enders set up the improbable victory finally earned by the fast bowlers. Earlier, he had limited South Africa's advantage with four wickets via his unpractised left-arm spin.

Still he was not an automatic pick in the next series in Australia in 1992-93 and only gained his place in three Tests when Hooper withdrew or the selectors took the rare, unsuccessful option of reducing their fast bowling staff.

He was missing again in the solitary Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo last December and, in spite of a return of 431 runs and an average of 53 in this season's Red Stripe Cup, was contesting the final batting place with Keith Arthurton before Hooper's latest mishap opened the door once more to the side.

The son of a Jamaican doctor and a Scottish radiologist, Adams climbed a traditional ladder to the cricketing pinnacle - through Jamaica College, one of the island's finest schools, the Kingston Cricket Club, more than 100 years old and Sabina Park as its home, into the Jamaica and West Indies youth teams and the Jamaica side proper, for whom he debuted at the age of 17.

His all-round talent extends beyond batting and spin bowling to keeping wicket, a role that has assured him a place in the West Indies one-day team but not in the Tests. Selectors, apparently, are fearful of burdening him with the job and detracting from his batting. It is a strange conclusion seeing that they have only been able to find room for him when someone else has dropped out.

This can no longer be the case. Hooper, for his off-spin bowling and his slip catching as much as for his batting, must return once he is fit. In the end Adams may find himself converted into an opener by circumstance, an alteration already suggested by Malcolm Marshall among others.

(Photograph omitted)