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The Best solution – “The WICB needs some women on it”

Wisden India logo Wisden India 02-05-2016
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Tino Best last played for West Indies in January 2014, but he is back in the news, grabbing headlines across the world over the past one week for his recently released autobiography, called Mind The Windows. Well, actually, it was just one particular chapter of the book – on his sex life – that really got everyone talking.

Tino Best last played for West Indies in January 2014, but he is back in the news, grabbing headlines across the world over the past one week for his recently released autobiography, called Mind The Windows. Well, actually, it was just one particular chapter of the book – on his sex life – that really got everyone talking.

What led to the decision to write a book?

I felt that my story was one that needed to be told. People might think that we play international cricket to light the world on fire, but the truth is, I played cricket for the love of the game. Especially where I came from, and to look at what I have achieved, I think it can be an inspirational story for a lot of the young guys growing up.

I thought of writing the book about six years ago, when I started to change my life in terms of my promiscuousness on tours and around the time when I thought of setting a proper example for my son. Life is not a fairy tale, and I wanted to be honest, I didn’t want to hide anything. I didn’t mind people judging me but when they look at me, at least they will say ‘yes, he is an honest guy’.

How do you feel about the chapter on your sex life grabbing most of the attention so far?

I was in Barbados when I first heard about it, and I was laughing. I was like ‘oh my god, they are going crazy with that’. So, immediately, I made sure I tweeted and Facebooked saying ‘listen, just easy with the criticism, man’. This is a story about me when I was 27, that’s eight years ago. I am telling you the story of an immature kid becoming a man. Everyone has a story. People are going to criticise me no matter what, like they always have. But, at the end of the day, I am who I am, and I love who I am.

Are you a religious man?

I was always religious in terms of how I was brought up. But when I was young, it was difficult to be a good boy all the time, with so many beautiful women around the world at your disposal. It tested me a lot, and I was like ‘okay, I need to chill a bit’. See, no one is perfect, and I am just a human being in the end.

Coming to West Indies cricket, you were part of the West Indies side that went through a period of decline internationally. What do you feel went wrong at that stage?

I’ll tell you what, when I first joined the West Indies team, no one coached me on my bowling or my bowling action. Now, the coaching structure has become much better but when I entered international cricket, I was made to bowl for a long time with a bad action, and I was just raw pace, running in to bowl at 90 miles per hour. Everyone was like ‘go on, go on, you will be the next Malcolm Marshall’. But when I went up against some of the better teams, I struggled because I did not have that coaching for the inswinger or an outswinger. So what we, as the West Indies team, really fell behind with was the coaching structure. Talent was always there, but the coaching and the constant fighting with the board was just insane. When I made the West Indies team there was a big thing going on about the captaincy between (Brian) Lara and (Carl) Hooper. Hooper said he was going to retire because Lara was given the captaincy, and in all that confusion, as a young guy, I was like, ‘oh my god, I did not expect this’. But I had a good time in my playing days except the time when Bennett King was the coach; he was the worst coach I have ever had in my life. There was a situation when I had an injury, and came back from it in 2004-05, and he was trying to make me bowl like Brett Lee. He threatened me saying if I did not bowl the way he wanted me to, he won’t pick me. How can you say that to the player? But he was blatant – pick wickets or you are going to be dropped. If you read the book, you will see there is an entire chapter on him, and how horrendous he was.

Do you think you were treated unfairly by the selectors or by the management?

Yeah, I think there were a few times I was bowling well but people got in ahead of me. Bennett King didn’t want me in the team, so it happened a lot when he was around. I have always done consistently well for Barbados, and I always felt that 25 Tests in 11 years does not speak well for me. I should have played at least 50 Test matches, like Fidel (Edwards). It was a case that when some certain people were in charge, they picked certain people. I got a raw deal sometimes, but I gave everything I had when I played for the West Indies, each time. But I was always under a lot of pressure, being told that if you don’t get wickets, we will drop you. There was never anyone to come up and say, ‘okay, look Tino; we will give you two-three series to get yourself in the groove’. It is only when Ottis Gibson and Darren Sammy came about, I was comfortable in the West Indies camp. And if you look at the numbers, I did well around them. But as soon as they got changed, I got dropped. In New Zealand, Darren Sammy and I were opening the bowling, because we had a lot of injuries in the team. I was getting everyone to edge the ball, and was bowling quick. But the fielders kept dropping the catches, it happened like 12 times. I remember Gibson coming to me and saying that, ‘okay, look Tino, you are bowling well, you are bowling quick and getting a good shape on that ball. The next Test series is against New Zealand in the Caribbean, prepare well and look forward to it’. But then the big fracas happened, (Denesh) Ramdin took over, and I got dropped. Gibson was removed, Sammy was gone, and others were picked ahead of me only because I was 32.

Looking back at your career so far, what would you have done differently?

I think if I had to start over, I would be the same person, same energy, but I would have kept my mouth shut a lot more. I could do that, or be the way I am around the Bennett Kings and all those guys, but that will be idiotic. Look, I played cricket to buy my groceries. Cricket is my breadwinner. Even at 34, I am still the first to go to the gym, I bowl at 90 miles an hour at the nets and I respect the sport because it has given me everything that I have in my life. My goal was never to get 500 wickets like Courtney Walsh, or to be the next Malcolm Marshall. I just wanted to play Test cricket with the energy like my uncle Carlisle (Best), and I feel that I am blessed, and have no regrets, man.

West Indies have proven their supremacy in the shortest format, but what needs to be done to revive Test-class fast bowling across the islands?

Pitches! That’s it, the talent is there, but the pitches are crap. The pitches will help not only the bowlers, but the batsmen as well. When you go to Australia, you will know what to do if you practice on good pitches. You will know how to leave a ball because you have practiced the bouncing ball. On flat pitches, you tend to go after each ball, and when you go to the bouncy tracks, you end up gloving it, or looping the ball in the air. The stadiums (around West Indies) are good, the coaches and facilities have improved from the time I started till now, when I last played. But remember man, cricket is not played in the boardroom or the gym or the pool, it’s played on the pitch. People of the West Indies have the power, so just bring out the pitches, and we will have what we need ready.

With all the success in T20s, is it difficult to motivate youngsters to play Test cricket?

I have a son who is 15 and a half, and he wants to play Test cricket. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be misled by the people saying Test cricket is dead in the islands. Cricket is in the Caribbean people’s blood. Guys play hard in first-class cricket. There is Shai Hope, Shane Dowrich, Carlos Brathwaite – all these guys are hungry, man. Test cricket is not going anywhere. I have told my son that you got to get that maroon cap. That’s what’s important, and you got to make it the No. 3 in the family. Uncle Carlisle was 187, I was 251, and now you go out there and get one. I am not letting you just get a T20 or an ODI cap home and be ok with it, man. (Laughs)

You were quite active on Twitter when West Indies lifted the Under-19 World Cup, and more recently, the World Twenty20 titles. Do you see change coming in the West Indies because of these wins?

This one is very hard to answer. The West Indies Cricket Board needs some women on it, I think. When there are too many men making decisions for other men, there will always be jealousy. Some guy will sit and say let’s not pick Chris Gayle because he is making 10 million dollars in the IPL anyway. Women make good decisions. The mother makes the good decisions. The father will always be hot-headed and big chested. Our T20 situation is brilliant, and our players are built for it, because we have the power hitters. Say a Joe Root or a Virat Kohli are great players, yes, in all formats, but can they hit the ball as hard as say, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy or Carlos Brathwaite can? But that apart, Test cricket is important. I love it, and I urge all young players to go for it. Get up and give it all for five days, man. That is real cricket.

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You have a chapter on playing in Sachin Tendulkar’s final Test. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and then, a few months later, once again bowling to him in the MCC bicentenary celebration at Lord’s?

The air and oxygen around that man is holy. Playing against Sachin was a childhood dream come true and I finally played against him in his last Test match. After watching him in the 1992 World Cup as a child and then playing against him was just phenomenal. I was charging in and trying to bowl as quick as I could at him. More than picking up his wicket, I wanted to impress him. I wanted his respect and well, he gave me that. And that’s all I needed, that’s all I wanted. I gained the legend’s respect.

It goes on to show his humility and grace on the game, and how amazing he is as a human being, that when he crossed fifty, he came to me, patted me on my back, and said ‘keep on trying, son’. Those things, as a ten year old watching him, and then bowling in his final Test, and then him saying that thing to me – it was special. I call the chapter Incredible India, because of how big the game is in there, and the energy. Some 40,000 people were shouting ‘Tino sucks’ (in Mumbai) and I was loving it, saying ‘yeah, India knows my name!’ I don’t mind getting hit for fours and sixes but even to get MS Dhoni’s wicket a couple of times when I have played against him is immense. I rate myself for that.

You are back in England again, playing for Hampshire. How is that going?

Well, I was very sorry that Fidel broke his leg, but he will be fine, he has got a long life ahead. I told Fidel, ‘look, my cousin just lost his 29-year-old girlfriend to cancer, and you only have a broken leg, so you will be fine, man’.

For me, Hampshire is a wonderful opportunity, but I have nothing to prove. I am just going to go out there and bowl quick and enjoy the game. You only got this game to play for so long. Sir Garfield Sobers would still want to play, but the body won’t allow that. So till you get the opportunity to play the game, give it all, and play each match, be it club level or international, like it’s your last.

What should an ideal fast bowler do to avoid injuries in this day and age when the calendar is so packed?

I feel it really comes down to the genetics. Being a black guy, my muscle fibres are different from the Aryans, from India, like say (Umesh) Yadav. It may sound weird, but my muscle fibres have more power. I go in to the gym proper and feel power; he might go in to the gym and feel sore. So the coaches have to understand the players’ genetics really well. Ask do we need to play him for four straight Test matches? Do we need him for all four Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is. So that judgment is very important. For me, a black fast bowler, I am shorter and stockier, so lifting weights helped me a lot with the power. I eat well, and I have been lifting weights since I was 12 or something. So my body is well used to the hard work.

Finally, do you still aspire to return to the West Indies dressing room?

Not really, man. My future goal right now is to play for maybe maximum three summers. I am 34 now, so maybe once I am 36 or 37, I will start a new chapter in my life. Maybe broadcasting, maybe something else, let’s see. Wherever god takes me, I go man. I just make sure I put god first in everything now, and so far, that has worked tremendously well for me.

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