You cannot be a friendly fast bowler: Tino Best

You cannot be a friendly fast bowler: Tino Best

Tino Best
Tino Best. (Photo Source: Twitter)

There is an interesting story behind the title of Tino Best’s autobiography. The West Indian fast bowler became a part of a very famous sledging incident. In 2004, Andrew Flintoff and Best were involved in the on on-field banter in 2004. Twelve years later, that sledge from Andrew Flintoff ‘Mind the windows’ is now what Best’s autobiography is called where he has made some rather startling revelations.

It all started when Best had enrolled in an army sports program at the age of 16 and aspired to join the British Army if cricket didn’t materialized. The Barbados Defence Force Sports Program boasts of five disciplines: football, cricket, table tennis, athletics and boxing, which enables aspiring cricketers to pursue the sport on a professional level.

“Not sure about everyone playing professionally, but they provide the basic stuff to get ahead,” Best told Cricbuzz. “If that doesn’t work out, then you go into the full-time army. Cricket happened and my career started taking off when I was about 19 and a half when South Africa came to the Caribbean in 2001.”

An army routine ensured discipline and fitness transcended more into a way of life than a habit that had Best as fit as a fiddle, much after his playing days which was seen at the Masters Champions League in February for the Sagittarius Strikers, where he clocked 145 kph consistently. With a gym at home and regular workouts, Best’s buff, toned structure at 34 with just spurts of T20 cricket to indulge in, reinforced his stand on fitness.

“I started running and lifting weights at 16, when I joined the program, and then it became a lifestyle. I have been consistently fit since. I now have a 16-year-old son and have a gym at home in Barbados. I train him. It’s a healthier option. If you’re fit, you’re confident and you can do anything. It instills self-belief and having a bit of belief in yourself helps in life; fitness is one of those things,” said Best.

Starting early is perhaps what infused fitness into Best’s lifestyle without having to force it in something that is important for athletes to build their stamina and steer clear of injuries. “We as cricketers don’t understand how important strength and conditioning is,” said Best with a slight shake of his head. “I think strength and conditioning should start when a kid is 15 so that by the time he’s 20, he doesn’t have injuries. I’ve had one serious injury my career where I was out for five months. I think instilling in youngsters the importance of fitness is vital. At 19, 20, if you have to start doing something you’ve never done before, it’s going to become a burden. You’re not going to like it.

“If someone between 10 and 15 came to me and asked me for advice, I would say: enjoy the game. Enjoy running in and bowling as fast as you can. Keep your head still, look at the target and bowl as fast as you can. Watch videos of other people who bowl fast as well. Fall in love with it. I wouldn’t get technical with them.

“If someone 19 onwards came, then I would get a lot more technical. Keep your head still, stay strong, get a proper trainer, lift weights. If you make $100 playing a cricket match, invest $25 of that on a good trainer who can train you to be explosive. You have to invest in yourself to be a top cricketer,” he elucidated.

In a career that spanned a little more than a decade Best had sparks of brilliance from time to time, but inconsistency was a feature just as stark. He was quick, aggressive and pumped up, but he was denied the chance to dish out steady performances due to erratic selections.

“To be honest, I just wanted someone to give me a proper look-in,” rued Best. “They’d pick me now, pick me then, pick me here, pick me there…I think if I had a proper run, I would’ve had a lot more Test appearances and wickets. I played 25 Tests, 26 one-dayers and six T20Is in 12-13 years. It’s kind of inconsistent, but not on my part as I was always dominating first-class cricket in the Caribbean. I wish I had played more Test cricket with Fidel (Edwards), as I feel like we could’ve complemented each other if we had the opportunity, but such is life.”

Best was recognised as one of the better talents in the country, bowling at a good pace but he received no coaching until he played his first Test match in 2003 at Bridgetown against Australia. Yet, he managed to produce noteworthy performances, albeit erratically.

“Everyone would say, ‘Tino, you’re fast and erratic,’ but I was never coached. ‘You can bowl at 95 miles an hour, let me just throw you into international cricket’ that’s how the Caribbean is…just raw talent. I figured out that if I had my action in order, I would’ve done a lot better.”

The absence of a coach and the knowledge gained as a result, holds Best in the ideal position to impart the same to aspiring cricketers who are still finding their feet in the sport. When asked if coaching was on the cards, Best was forthright.

“One of my aspirations is to be a strength and conditioning fast bowling coach,” he cooed. “I have so much knowledge that has been passed on to me from people like Wayne Daniel, Wes Hall, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and a lot of great cricketers, who have passed on their knowledge of fast bowling. I’d like to be able to share that with kids and also because I love training.

“People often ask me, ‘Tino, you’re nearly 35 and you’re still bowling at 145 kph, what is it for you?’ It’s just the desire. I just want to let kids understand that fast bowling is one of the greatest adrenaline rushes ever. You have to have the desire to do anything in life, but I believe that bowling fast is something special. Everyone always say, ‘fast bowlers are nutters, fast bowlers are crazy’, but you got to have a little bit of madness. On the field, I’m really wired in, off it, I’m really chilled. You cannot be a friendly fast bowler; you have to be aggressive and mean. That’s the funny part of being a cricketer for me – the Jekyll & Hyde theory,” he chuckled.

OFF the field, Best is a calm and frolic likes to have fun. However, Best lives by the faith and ideals  which is evident from the various tattoos that he has inked on his body.

“I believe in God Jesus Christ. I have another one which is an eagle. If I died and came back, I’d love to be an eagle. It’s the most powerful bird flying the skies and being above the rest. The next tattoos are the names of my son and daughter with a dove. The dove signifies that is they’re (my kids) two beautiful souls and the eagle protects the dove.”

His kids being of paramount importance was palpable as the conversation progressed with every question bearing reference to them in one way or another. For instance, even one of Best’s most memorable incidents on a cricket field featured his son.

“I was playing a Test against Zimbabwe at the Kensington Oval three years ago and I was attempting a catch which was a skier at mid-on,” Best recollected.

“It was an absolutely easy catch and I spilt it. My son was at the game. When the crowd settled down, my son yelled out: ‘Dad! You just dropped a dolly.’ Everyone on the field started laughing as they recognised the voice and it was absolutely funny. I was thinking, ‘I’m going to whip his b*** when I see him’, but it was special because my son got the opportunity to see me playing Test cricket. I had the opportunity to see my uncle Carlisle Best play for West Indies and score a hundred as well, so it was real nostalgic for me. It was funny, but also a very proud moment.”

The good, however, always comes with the bad such is the circle of life. In the life of a West Indian cricketer, one element that has been on the negative flank has always been the dispute among the players and the West Indies Cricket Board. Best, however, has a solution to the problem, albeit an unconventional one.

“It’s been going on for 25 years now… I think they’re going to continue to struggle for now but hopefully the new president (David Cameron) or whoever takes over irons out the issues,” said Best. “The players and board need to be on common ground and be understanding. In any company, you’re going to have some in-fighting and disagreements, but it all comes down to the point of being mature about handling it. I seriously believe that the WICB needs some women on it. Women shed a different light on everything in life.”

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