Carl Hooper discovers reverse, and himself
I made my Test debut in 1987 and my maiden century came straightaway, against India in Calcutta. But as a Test cricketer, especially in your early years, you are always asking yourself the one question: are you good enough? To silence those doubts you need a defining knock that makes you feel the innings was special and confirm that you are good enough at that level.
In 1990, during the final Test of the Pakistan series, I scored my second century, in Lahore. It was the most important innings of my life. There were various elements that made it special. The conditions were testing, the pitch was difficult. Waqar Younis was young, raw and quick, and he was swinging the ball - so late, like I had never seen before, or would later in my career. Wasim Akram and Imran Khan were asking their own questions. Then there was Abdul Qadir, spinning powerfully and dangerously.
Potentially, any ball can get you out but more so on that day. We had lost Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson and Gordon Greenidge immediately after we chose to bat. I walked in at 37 for 3. My partner was a young debutant, Brian Lara. We had no idea what was coming at us.
I was young, inexperienced, and facing unplayable bowling. It started with both of us trying to survive. I remember Lara and myself running singles by pushing wide of gully. This was facing Waqar. I did not want to face him, neither did Lara. So whenever we got bat on ball, the idea was to run. I was not settled, at least for the first half of my innings. I was always looking for what the ball would do.
Waqar Younis, young, raw and quick, was swinging the ball - so late, like I had never seen before, or would later in my career
The Gaddafi Stadium outfield was not lush or well-grassed. The boundaries did not have ropes, and whenever the ball went toward the fence on one side it kept hitting a concrete wall. So that was helping the ball roughen easily.
You have to remember there were no neutral umpires then. I don't want to say Pakistan were intentionally working on the ball, but I remember asking Imran how one side was really, really scuffed up. It looked as if it was worked on by a fingernail. Imran said it was just the rough outfield. But one side was dead smooth while the other was completely rough. I never saw the ball swing so late at pace. Waqar, Wasim and Imran all had that going.
So that was my first encounter against reverse. It was my first experience of facing the ball going against the shine. What made matters worse was, both Waqar and Wasim would hide the ball. When you cover it, it becomes a totally different ball game. Basically I had to react after the ball was delivered.
But with time I grew comfortable. Perhaps having watched great batsmen fail at the other end, I realised early the daunting nature of the pitch and opposition and decided to knuckle down.
That is why I say this was the best innings, because I was really tested. It lasted nearly six hours and it was the longest of my short career till then. You had to be patient. The ultimate compliment came from Imran, who told me it was one of the better knocks he had seen. I finished as Man of the Match - my first Test award.
Carl Hooper played 102 Tests and 227 ODIs for West Indies between 1987 and 2003. He was speaking to Nagraj Gollapudi, an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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