Cricket: Tino Best explains why the West Indies will always be cellar dwellers

By James Matthey of news.com.au

The West Indies men's and women's team celebrate after winning their finals matches of the ICC World Twenty20. Photo / AP
The West Indies men's and women's team celebrate after winning their finals matches of the ICC World Twenty20. Photo / AP

They're smiling now, but for how long?

The West Indies are still basking in the glow of their World T20 win, having beaten England in a final that will be remembered as much for the explosive post-match barbs as the spectacular run chase they pulled off to claim victory.

They deserve to celebrate. Success doesn't come around all that often for the Caribbean side, so it's an achievement the players should really treasure.

But when the Windies trade their coloured clothes for whites, what happens then? More than likely it will mean pain rather than pleasure for the world's no. 8 ranked Test team.

Since the start of 2000, they've played 159 Tests, winning only 30 of them, drawing 45 and losing 84. It's a worrying trend of mediocrity that has no conceivable end in sight, no matter how many positive memories they can create in the shorter formats.

Former West Indian quick Tino Best thinks there's only one way the region can reignite itself as a force on the international scene in the five-day version - but he can't see it ever eventuating.

In an extract from his book published on ESPNcricinfo, the 34-year-old from Barbados was adamant the different islands that make up the West Indies need to breakaway and compete individually if the Caribbean wants even the slightest possibility of seeing a return to the glory days of the 1970s and 80s.

Former Windies quick Tino Best is adamant the islands that make up the West Indies need to breakaway and compete individually if they're to see a return to the glory days. Photo / Getty Images
Former Windies quick Tino Best is adamant the islands that make up the West Indies need to breakaway and compete individually if they're to see a return to the glory days. Photo / Getty Images

"Unless the West Indies disbands and we play as individual islands, I don't know how things can really change," wrote Best.

"I don't think the islands will ever go their separate ways but I can honestly say I'd love it to happen.

"Barbados versus Australia, imagine it now. I would love it so much if Barbados went alone and were left to make their way up the ICC rankings.

"If anyone should break away, we (Barbados) should. We'd always play as a unit too. We'd encourage each other, be there for each other, take care of each other.

"The same can't be said for the West Indies."

For a team constantly dealing with board troubles, pay disputes and player strikes, the belief that getting players from different islands to play under the West Indies banner is a barrier to success is not a new one.

Dwayne Bravo celebrates after his team's win over England in the final of the ICC World Twenty20. Photo / AP
Dwayne Bravo celebrates after his team's win over England in the final of the ICC World Twenty20. Photo / AP

What is interesting, though, is that a player has come out and stated unequivocally that is what's holding the team back. Normally it's commentators and officials trotting out that line, but to hear it first hand from someone who's experienced how debilitating that division can be really emphasises the seriousness of the problem.

However, Best thinks there's no chance of seeing that match he thinks world cricket desperately needs - Barbados vs Australia - anytime soon.

"Will it happen? No. I don't think so."

The ex-speedster - who played 25 Tests, 26 ODIs and six international T20s - has used his book to tell some revealing tales about just how difficult life can be for a West Indian cricketer, referencing his debut against Australia in Barbados back in 2003 when Shivnarine Chanderpaul dropped a catch off his bowling.

"I was there, in Barbados, just wishing for my Barbados teammates. And there, in that moment, was one of the huge difficulties in playing cricket for the West Indies," he wrote.

"You are all from different nations, with different cultures and from different backgrounds. If Suli (Barbados teammate Sulieman Benn) had dropped it, I'd have had guys there putting an arm round my shoulder. We were all Bajans; all in it together. They'd tell me I got the batsman to make one mistake and I could get him to make another. We'd all be together as one.

"Brian (Lara) was supportive ... But the others? Not really. It wasn't even lunch on day one of my Test career and I'd had my first insight into why playing for the West Indies is so hard.

"It was my first big international match and I felt lonely. I felt totally on my own out there. How can this be right?

"The Aussies were a good - no, great - side. That was one problem, but the lack of support from my teammates was a bigger one."

He went on to detail how the senior bowler at the time Merv Dillon didn't even speak a word to him the entire match, while he said the support he received playing county cricket for Yorkshire far outweighed anything he experienced playing for the Windies.

"They'd (Yorkshire teammates) give me so much support. I love that so much, but it's so different with the West Indies.

"I've run in for the West Indies during Test matches and no one is clapping; no one is encouraging you to give it your all. This is Test cricket, why would you not be doing this?

"Loneliness is a horrible feeling. No player should have to deal with that but it's been like that for so long."

For international cricket to be truly healthy - Test cricket in particular - it needs a strong West Indies side. They've produced too many incredible players - think Wes Hall, Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd to name just a few - and been responsible for too many of cricket's most memorable moments to just slide into oblivion.

Only time will tell if they can ever find a way back to a happier time.

- news.com.au

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