Cricket: Hooper targets third Test

CARL HOOPER will rejoin his beleaguered West Indian team-mates for the third Test against Australia after spending time with his family in Australia where his infant son is ill.

The all-rounder missed last week's humiliating 312-run defeat in the first Test at Trinidad because of his son's illness. West Indies were dismissed for their lowest Test score of 51 as they suffered their sixth successive Test defeat.

Hooper, formerly West Indies vice-captain, was not available for the second Test, starting in Jamaica today, but he will travel to the Caribbean tomorrow to prepare for the third Test, which begins in Barbados on 26 March.

"I don't want to desert a sinking ship," Hooper said. "If we are going to go down, I want to be a part of it. I don't want to sit here and watch the telly and watch us going down. I want to be there," he said.

Hooper also said he would consider taking on the West Indies captaincy if the selectors offered him the job but he said he was happy to pledge his support to the captain, Brian Lara. Hooper also served as Lara's deputy on the recent tour of South Africa, where West Indies lost the Test series 5-0.

Hooper said Lara's strength of character would determine whether he could withstand continuing criticism and speculation over his captaincy.

"It depends on how strong Brian is. Sometimes you get into situations like this, it sometimes tests your character. I'm 100 per cent behind Brian," he said.

Hooper pulled out of the first two matches of the four-Test series to stay in Adelaide with his Australian wife, Connie Tambakis, and their infant son, who is undergoing tests for an undisclosed medical condition.

He had intended to wait for the results of the most recent tests that his son's had undergone, but said he felt he had to make an immediate decision on his cricketing future or risk missing the whole series.

He said that if things took a turn for the worse here "the board has more or less assured me that they will allow me to come back".

"But I think it's a time also where West Indies cricket can ill afford to be without some of their main players and I just think I've got to bite the bullet and go."

Hooper said earlier this week he had felt "torn in two" watching on television as West Indies collapsed to their worst Test match total at Port-of-Spain, and he clearly felt that he had to make a quick decision.

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