Tino Best marked his return to Test cricket by breaking a record. It’s likely to be a short-lived love affair, but at least the big man has given cricket fans something to smile about, says ANT SIMS.
The last time Tino Best stepped out in his Test match whites, the West Indies were in crisis. Forced to field a second-string team due to a player strike, Best was in the thick of it. He went wicketless and the West Indies lost the match against Bangladesh.
The first-choice players then returned and Best was cast into the wilderness of domestic cricket. Nobody really spoke about him, other than the a comment once on a Saturday night pertaining to his Twitter avatar where he appeared in his underwear, holding a bat full of bright and sparkly things. Nobody really cared what Tino was up to or how he was doing domestically, he simply existed in limbo: somewhere between the vast jungle of the West Indies domestic set-up and an entangled web of social networking, where people like to prod and poke those with amusing avatars.
Shannon Gabriel was injured after the first Test and Best got his recall to the West Indies for the first time in almost three years. Everybody was excited to see him back for no cricketing reason whatsoever. Best is a character, an entertainer, an enthralling piece of work who’ll leave you captivated by his ability to pour his soul into every single thing he does. He might not be the most talented cricketer, but Best will always give it his all.
He was back in the side, but his chances of playing were slim, with Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul all contending for a bowling place. It looked like Best would be just another expert drinks carrier. Then, as luck would have it, Roach was ruled out of the remainder of the tour and opportunity came knocking for Best.
When the third Test arrived, nobody knew whether it would be Best or Edwards who got the nod to replace the injured Roach. The first two days of the Test were rained out and when the teams were announced, it was Tino’s name on the team sheet.
With nothing left to play for, aside from saving face, West Indies put up much more resistance than their previous two Tests, but still stuttered somewhat to find themselves at 283-9 on day four. Enter Best.
Andrew Flintoff's infamous sledge of “mind the windows, Tino” echoed through social networks and Best started his innings with wild heaves, a selection of classy drives and the odd swing and a miss. It looked like he’d soon be sent packing, but Best kept going and, before long the West Indies paceman was on course to hit the record score for a number 11 batsman. His 95 became the highest for a number 11 in the history of Test cricket. Along with Denesh Ramdin, the two contributed 143 for the final-wicket partnership.
With 14 fours and a straight six, Best kept the crowd at Edgbaston entertained before he holed out off the bowling of Graham Onions and was caught by Andrew Strauss running back at slip. While walking off, the big man dropped his head in sheer emotional agony. He walked out a short while later, after having spent over two hours at the batting crease, and took the new ball, ran in hard, smiling, grinning while opening the bowling.
England stumbled a bit in their reply, but as Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell settled in and helped England chip away at the deficit in a match that looks set to be a draw, the tiny group of West Indies fans at Edgbaston repeated: “Tino, Tino” in a drawn-out drawl. He kept on charging in full steam, smiling, grinning and giving it more than he probably had left.
The love affair will most likely be short-lived, though. When Roach returns, the big man from Barbados might yet again be cast out to the wilderness, but he has given West Indies fans just a little something to smile about.
With their administration in disarray, most of their players failing to capitalise on their potential and half of their stars chasing the IPL dollar due to the utter incompetence of the board, Best has been another ray of light in the darkness of WI cricket which loves to snuff out a flame as soon as it starts to flicker.
If he goes, he’s at least etched himself into the record books for the time being. If he stays, he’ll have a mountain of expectation to live up to. Either way, he’s done good, he’s looking better than before and he’s the record breaking Tino Best. DM
Photo: West Indies' Tino Best celebrates after reaching his half-century during the third test cricket match against England at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham June 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Philip Brown)