The 95mph Water Boy; Tino Best

Can you imagine carrying drinks for your team mate’s day in, day out whilst knowing that you’re faster than all of them put together?

That’s exactly how West Indian fast bowler, Tino Best felt during the early part of his career. Fortunately, a chance to bowl at the touring South African cricket team in April 2001 presented the perfect opportunity for Tino to announce himself to the West Indies Cricket Board.

I think that opportunity to bowl at the touring South African cricket team really changed my life holistically and for the good.
— Tino Best on Bowling at The South African Cricket Team

Hustling in at a mere 5’6 (167cm), Tino struck the Proteas captain, Gary Kirsten on the head with his very first ball and immediately caught the attention of Graham Ford (the South African Coach at the time). Tino described the shock of Graham and his comrades as the sight of an unknown kid bowling between 90 – 95mph unravelled right before their eyes.

Everybody just freaked out. Their coach and the whole South African team were so impressed. They were like, you’re actually quicker than all of the West Indian boys put together
— Tino Best

At just 5’6, Tino dispels the age-old myth that you have to be tall to be able to bowl fast. Could these preconceived opinions on size and speed be the reason why Tino was initially ignored?

It’s hard to turn a blind eye to the fact that a young, genuine speedster had to wait for an open net to get noticed. In recent times, the West Indies public and Cricket Board have expressed their concerns over losing Barbadian born, Jofra Archer who has openly cited a lack of opportunities in the Caribbean as a significant factor in his decision to relocate and relaunch his career on English shores.

It does beg the question, is enough being done in the developmental stages of West Indies cricket to identify, nurture and hold on to their raw talent?

As we got further into our conversation, we wanted to find out more about the origins of Tino’s passion for fast bowling, “Tino, of all the different disciplines you could choose, why did you choose fast bowling?”

I chose fast bowling because it was an adrenaline rush. Everybody wanted to bowl fast and send the stumps flying. I think it was more flamboyant in my era to be a fast bowler than a batsman.
— Tino Best on Why he Chose to Become a Fast Bowler

Inspired by the 80’s Caribbean pace battery: Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, Tino recalls the time he watched a wounded Malcolm Marshall bag a 7-wicket haul with a broken hand as one of the most inspirational moments of his upbringing.

He was small just like I was and he was a giant amongst giants knocking over the greatest players that the world has ever seen. I wanted to be just like him
— Tino Best on Malcolm Marshall

Growing up in Barbados, Tino started playing cricket at the tender age of 5 or 6 years and was immediately exposed to the prestige of professional cricket by spending time with his uncle, Carlisle Best, a right-hand batsman who at the time, played for the West Indies.

I was fortunate enough to have an uncle who played international cricket with all of the great players. To be around the dressing room of a Barbados team which had so many superstars was really, really awesome
— Tino Best on His Uncle, Carlisle Best

Being in the presence of elite players at such a young age must surely have given Tino a taste of what he could achieve if he applied himself to his craft. But his rise in the game was far from smooth.

I wasn’t in any army sports programme in Barbados. I wasn’t even in the starting eleven. I was the water boy
— Tino Best

Limited opportunities and belief from his peers played their fair share in holding Tino back; but it was only temporary - once the young tearaway got his chance to replace the bottle with a ball, boy oh boy did he take it.

Thanks for reading.