THE SCORE: Tino’s coming of age
By Ezra Stuart | Wed, June 13, 2012 - 12:00 AM
I’M DEDICATING TODAY’S COLUMN to the West Indies’ new record-breaker Tino Best.
Readers will recall I included Best in my squads, which I had chosen for both the three-match Test series and the One-Day segment of this England tour.
For the last two years or so, I have been constantly calling for the lion-hearted Best to be selected in the West Indies’ team.
It was for his improved bowling, but somehow the West Indies selectors didn’t have the faith in Best. It is still unbelievable that he was named as a reserve for last year’s World Cup in the subcontinent but is yet to play a One-Day International since then.
I mentioned in this column a few weeks ago how a fired-up Best snared the first six wickets in a West Indies’ tune-up match at the 3Ws Oval but was not given a single match in the One-Day series against Australia.
Having seen Best bowl in Berbice in a regional four-day match against Guyana in 2010, when he took six scalps, including that of Shivnarine Chanderpaul on a docile Albion pitch, I noticed a maturity in Best’s bowling.
He was no longer depending on raw pace and bowling fast, but seemed to have a lot more control.
Later that year, Best went to Jamaica and was without doubt the most feared and outstanding fast bowler on show in the Regional 50-over Tournament.
While he has been receiving praise for batting, it is Best’s bowling which impressed me as he took two wickets – England’s captain Andrew Strauss, who had struck two centuries in the first two Tests, and rookie Jonny Bairstow – for 37 in 12 over on his return to the Test side in the rain-ruined Test.
Over the past year or so, Tino has had some personal hiccups, and I’m delighted that he didn’t throw in the towel. I recall a despondent Best calling me a few times between 2010 and this year and asking what more he had to do to gain selection on the West Indies team.
I told him not to give up and that he only had to keep taking wickets as I was confident that he would get another opportunity. It finally came when compatriot Kemar Roach was forced to return home with an injury and the selectors recognized the need for another aggressive bowler to have a go at the English batsmen.
Best also believes in his ability as a lower-order batsman but would get carried away on occasions, trying to play shots, rather than trying to support his partner.
This time, he had the right mix of attack and defence as his last-wicket stand of 143 with Denesh Ramdin was not only a new West Indies record but also the third best in Test cricket, a mere eight runs short of the world record.
Best said he had been motivated by a documentary film about the great West Indies side of the 1970s and 1980s.
“I have been watching a lot of Fire In Babylon and it really inspired me. My uncle Carlisle Best, who scored two hundreds against England, always wanted me to be a Test batsman. To fall five short, I know he’s disappointed – but still happy I scored 95.
“As a kid I grew up in the dressing room around the legends, and to watch a video of how great, how awesome those guys used to play, I just went out and backed myself.
“I was thinking about when Malcolm Marshall was playing and then when I got to 92 I remembered this is my favourite cricketer’s highest score, [and told myself] ‘let me just get past him’.
“I feed off Sir Vivian [Richards] and Fire In Babylon is a fantastic film and gave me inspiration, I’m really grateful to do well.” Richards, who watched the knock, said Best’s aggression had upset the England attack, badly missing strike bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
“Tino Best certainly doesn’t look like a No. 11, but with this England attack, with no Anderson or Broad, it’s the first time in this series they’ve been found wanting and it’s because of the aggression of Best,” Richards told Test Match Special.
It is now up to Best to string together consistent bowling performances and not be carried away with all the hype about his record innings. After all, it is still his bowling by which he will ultimately be judged and presently there is plenty of competition for fast bowling places on the West Indies team.
Darren Sammy is assured of one place once he remains as captain while Kemar Roach is guaranteed of selection once he’s fit. Hence, it is Best, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and rookie Shannon Gabriel who will now be competing for the other places.
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