SPORT

Hooper praises youngsters

Chennai Nov. 24. ``It has to be there right up with the best. I don't think you can play much better than that,'' West Indies captain Carl Hooper commented on Marlon Samuels' innings after the TVS Cup series clinching victory here on Sunday.

Not the kind to lavish praise on youngsters, Hooper said that for cricketers like Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Marlon Samuels and Jermaine Lawson, the tour had been "a good learning experience. It has been a hard series. I hope they can carry on from here.''

He revealed the decision to field Lawson in the crunch game was taken only 40 minutes before the start. "He was not expected to play,'' Hooper said, and added it was the injured back of Perdo Collins that prompted the team-management to have a look at Lawson.

The Windies captain noted it was Lawson's desire to play that was the clinching factor in his selection. Hooper maintained that the Caribbean's could perform well in Tests too.

Indian captain Rahul Dravid said that while chasing big scores, the batsmen have to take chances, and if the wickets are lost during that process, the pressure of maintaining a run-rate can build up, particularly on the later batsmen.

On Samuels unbeaten hundred Dravid said, "he played a fantastic innings. I have not seen better knocks that this. We tried everything, the pacemen, the spinners, but he was striking the ball so cleanly.'' He stated the defeat would not affect the rhythm of the side.

Dravid complimented Sanjay Bangar for taking his chances in the series, and observed Ajit Agarkar and Murali Kartik performed well for a major part. He admitted that the loss of key players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan was bound to weaken a side. "We have to accept that,'' he said and declined to offer this as an excuse.

The stand-in skipper said he would continue to keep wickets till the World Cup, felt Javagal Srinath had some more cricket left in him, and added maintaining the high standards of fielding, bowling, and batting in the last 15 overs would be the areas, the team would have to work on. "It is a good place to play cricket,'' he remarked on the New Zealand tour.