COZIER ON CRICKET: Time running out on Tino
SOMETIMES a picture is worth the proverbial thousand words. Sometimes not. As in everything else, it’s a matter of interpretation.
Kenmore Bynoe’s picture on the Daily Nation front page last Thursday appeared to tell even more than Haydn Gill’s thorough written account of the reasons for Tino Best’s omission from the Barbados team for the current four-day match against the England Lions at Kensington.
It showed Best “trying to make a point” [as the caption euphemistically put it] while the attention of head coach Vasbert Drakes, a couple of feet away with his back turned to him, was focused somewhere in the distance.
A little further on, manager Desmond Haynes was intimately engaged with his mobile phone. Conditioning trainer Shannon Lashley, to whom, according to chief selector George Linton, Best had been “very disrespectful”, was in the group but obscured by Drakes.
A day later, Gill reported that both Best and Drakes felt that the photo “might have created the wrong impression”, even as Best admitted that he had “said words to her [Lashley] that were unbecoming of a professional cricketer” and publicly apologised “to Barbados, my teammates, the Barbados Cricket Association, my family, friends and fans from the bottom of my heart”.
Whatever the circumstances, Best clearly recognised that his latest transgression could not have been more untimely, for it has come precisely when he was genuinely pressing his claim for West Indies selection once more.
His career, now in its tenth regional season, has been tarnished by several disciplinary issues.
On his first appearance in West Indies colours, with the “A” team on the petulant tour of England in 2002, he was one of those reprimanded for his behaviour by manager and coach. He had a history of delivering beamers, for which he was twice debarred from bowling in a match, one a Test. In Australia in 2005, he was put out of the nets by coach Bennett King.
It is not that there is any obvious malice to Best. Yes, he has a hot temper but, if anything, it is triggered by his whole-hearted commitment.
Cricinfo, the game’s popular website, gets it just about right in describing him as “aggressive, confident and energetic”, adding that he “carries the fight to the very end”. But it adds the crucial, inescapable proviso that he has “found it hard to learn control – physically and mentally”.
Until last week, his dark days seemed behind him.
He himself had spoken of his improved attitude. He had a brief stint last season with Yorkshire where he made a favourable impression. Back home, he bowled with pace and direction to be one of the top wicket-takers in the regional 50-overs and Twenty20 tournaments.
The veteran Jamaican writer Tony Becca was not the only one who reckoned he had done enough for him to think of a West Indies place again.
The selectors seemed to agree, making him a reserve for the squad in the upcoming World Cup. Best’s foot was back in the door – and then this.
Even as flat as the Kensington pitch has proved, he has been devastated, not only by his suspension but by the fact that he has lost the chance to show his worth against as strong a batting side as the England Lions.
He has made his apology and can hope that he is treated as leniently as teammate Sulieman Benn, who retains his West Indies place in spite of a disciplinary record more blemished than any current West Indian’s.
One criterion in the West Indies Cricket Board’s recently published “official selection policy” states that players “must always demonstrate pride in representing the region and display exemplary behaviour on and off the field of play”.
There is no question that Best qualifies on the first count, equally none that he is close to the line on the second.
It is now up to him to exercise control, both on his bowling and, more importantly, on his temperament. His time is running out.
Apathy at the gates
BARBADOS are playing against a representative England team in a first-class match at Kensington Oval, a notable rivalry dating back 115 years at one of the most famous grounds in the world of cricket.
For the 800 or so spectators gathered on Friday for the first day, it was not so much an occasion steeped in history but rather little more than the Intermediate Division club final of the previous weekend that had been Kensington’s previous event.
How so many knew about it in the first place certainly wasn’t through pre-game advertising. There was none.
Through regular radio and television reports from those involved, the cricket more in the public consciousness was Foundation School’s Twenty20 tapeball night series at Dover [ironically bearing the name of Joel Garner, the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) president, a famous old boy] and the novel six-a-side affair in the Pine arranged by Hamilton Lashley, one always keenly aware of the benefit of promotion.
Those diehards – and the English tourists – who did make their way to Kensington might have wondered if the lack of marketing was deliberate since every indication when they got there was that, if they were wanted, it was only grudgingly so.
Those like the elderly
Bajan couple – returning nationals to judge by their accents – I encountered wandering, and wondering, on the Fontabelle side of the Oval.
They wanted to know where they could purchase tickets. I showed them the sign pointing to the ticket booth but, they explained, they had already been there and found it closed.
So there was surely a notice on the closed door stating where tickets were available, I guessed. No, they replied, nothing.
Next move was to head for the gates to the Greenidge & Haynes and Hewitt & Inniss Stands. There, we were confronted by a lock seemingly borrowed from Dodds.
As we were subsequently to discover, those stands were closed to the public. The only one open would be the Worrell, Weekes & Walcott.
The Greenige & Haynes Stand was open yesterday but the message was clear.
The organisers couldn’t care less about their clientele.
Not for them the adage that the customer comes first.
This is a new, modern, well-appointed stadium that has staged two World Cup finals. But, for what officials apparently perceived as an insignificant little match, even if involving the Barbados team, less than a quarter of it would be put into use.
There was more evidence of such indifference once through the gate at the northern end, the one and only point of entry – and exit – for spectators.
Within a couple of overs, the main, hugely expensive, electronic scoreboard went on the blink, not to return for the day.
After an hour, it was time for the first appointed water break. Usually a neat, sponsored cart would be wheeled onto the ground carrying the requisite refreshment for the players.
Not this time. Instead, a cooler, the type seen at beach picnics, was heaved out by an attendant, as it was for the remaining such intervals.
It was all very shoddy and an embarrassment to an island proud of its cricketing legacy, on and off the field. But was it surprising? Hardly.
• Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.