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BARBADOS - Tino Best

- Tuesday 26, April-2005 by HAYDN GILL


TINO BEST is back, but the West Indies selectors have resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes in the aftermath of a second successive Test defeat to South Africa.

After close to ninth months in the international wilderness with a back injury, the livewire Barbadian fast bowler is set to return in the fourth Digicel Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground, starting Friday.

Best and Guyanese batsman Narsingh Deonarine are the only two changes to the 12-man squad that lost the third Test by an innings and 86 runs at Kensington Oval on Sunday.

They take the places of pacer Reon King and batsman Ryan Hinds, both disappointments in the Kensington defeat that assured South Africa retention of the Vivian Richards Trophy, after moving to an unbeatable 2-0 series lead.

Best’s return follows two matches for Barbados at the tail-end of the Carib Beer Series and another for the University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor’s XI against the South Africans a week ago.

“I feel great. It’s always a joy and a big privilege to get back into the West Indies team. I am elated,” he said.

His international career, in which he has taken 16 wickets at 43.75 in eight Tests, was interrupted last July when he had to abort the summer tour of England after the first Test. The stress fracture of the back also kept him out of the Barbados team until the last two matches of the first-class season.

Even then, his comeback was not totally satisfactory; his participation in the final match against Trinidad and Tobago was restricted to 2.4 overs.

“It wasn’t my back that was the problem. My back healed about four months ago. Getting fit was the hardest part,” the 23-year-old Best said.

“I had an abdominal strain. That is the thing that kept me out for a while. The fitness is up. I am just looking to go out there, work hard and make West Indies proud.”

His exuberance and effervescence will surely add a new dimension to a West Indies attack that has been largely modest for the past two Tests.

But it remains to be seen if he can bowl at the 90-mile-per-hour speeds he was capable of in the past.

“I don’t think that the talent has gone anywhere or the strength to bowl fast has gone,” Best said.

“It is just about bowling my line, conserving my energy and knowing when to let go and when to hold back. If I am selected in the final 11, I want to put my best foot forward.”

In the match for the Vice-Chancellor’s XI, Best didn’t set the ground ablaze, grabbing one wicket for 39 runs in nine overs, but he felt satisfied with his effort.

“I bowled a bit too short, but I was bowling fairly sharp. I thought I would get in for the third Test,” he said.

“I was disappointed, but that didn’t really derail me from my main goal, which is to get back into West Indies colours. I think I bowled fairly decently in Trinidad. I just hope everything works out fantastic for me.”

He takes the place of King who, after a commendable start to the series, lacked any sort of spark and was plagued by no-ball problems. The three Tests brought him six wickets at 43.33 each.

The left-handed Hinds made a solid 48 in the opening Test at Bourda, missed the second at Queen’s Park Oval because of a viral illness, and made ten and 15 in the third at Kensington. His left-arm spin was also ineffective on most occasions.

While Hinds and King are the only two casualties, other players would have come under the microscope. Among them are opener Chris Gayle, who bagged four successive single-digit scores, and wicketkeeper Courtney Browne, who has missed three chances behind the stumps.

Gayle and Browne, however, bring other assets to the team that would have been seriously considered by the selection panel, including covenor Joey Carew.

“Some people are advocating sweeping changes but that policy has never proven to be successful,” Carew said.

“What we are looking to do is to improve the fitness and conditioning, both mental and physical, of the players to ensure they are able to contend with the demands of the modern game.”

THE SQUAD:

Shivnarine Chanderpaul (captain), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Narsingh Deonarine, Dwayne Bravo, Courtney Browne, Daren Powell, Tino Best, Fidel Edwards, Dwight Washington.

Officials: Tony Howard (manager), Bennett King (coach), David Moore (assistant coach/analyst), Stephen Partridge (physio), Bryce Cavanagh (strength and conditioning co-ordinator).

haydngill@nationnews.com

 

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Dwayne Smith pommels another delivery six during his explosive 94 which came off just 63 balls at the 3Ws Oval against Jamaica yesterday. (Picture by Gordon Brooks.)

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