Tino Best: 'I've given up the playboy lifestyle - I'm a reformed man'

West Indian fast bowler Tino Best. Photo / Getty Images
West Indian fast bowler Tino Best. Photo / Getty Images

An unseasonably cold snap has hit Southampton's Ageas Bowl, where Hampshire's second XI are playing Somerset.

The players are cowering for warmth. Snow even stopped play at one point.

Still, Tino Best is where he feels happiest: in whites, playing cricket.

Best will be 35 this summer, and has probably played the last of his 25 Tests for the West Indies, but the fire still rages.

When Hampshire offered him a short-term contract as injury cover, he leapt at the chance.

"I love to bowl fast," he purrs.

"It's the greatest feeling in the world. Bowling fast is greater than having sex."

It is just one of a litany of scorching lines that Best casually throws out during this interview, for this is a man who talks as good a game as he plays.

Best's arrival in England coincides with the release of his autobiography Mind The Windows, which on the basis of a few short extracts has already created something of a stir.

Perhaps the most delicate way of putting it is that Best has certainly kept himself busy over the years.

Best's nocturnal conquests are laid out in eye-popping detail: he estimates he has slept with "between 500 and 650 girls, all around the world", and the book is full of sentences like "Beating England at Lord's, partying with Usher and a threesome - it doesn't get much better."

Best's salacious brand of candour may not be to everyone's taste, but he is unapologetic.

"The thing about life is, everyone has dirt," he says.

"You can't live life wanting everyone to like you. I'm bold enough to talk about my past. I was raised by six women to always be honest."

But there is more to the book - and more to Best - than his unerring line and length. For all the headline smut, Best is equally frank when discussing the heartbreak and frustration of his earlier years, or the trials and triumphs of his decade-long international career.

One of the central characters is a man he has barely met and is not named: his father, currently in jail for drug offences.

"One of the most hurtful things is that my dad never watched me play for the West Indies," Best says.

"Or even Barbados. But he was nowhere to be found. He was probably hitting crack somewhere."

The absence of Best's father casts a shadow over the entire book.

Instead he was brought up by his mother Yvette, his grandmother and his aunts.

Does he ever wonder how things might have turned out if his father had been around? "I probably wouldn't have been as angry," he says.

"I'm still angry to this day. He preferred the crack pipe to us. So what are you going to do, as a kid?"


An amateur psychologist might speculate whether the lack of a father in Best's life had a bearing on the playboy lifestyle that followed, but Best rejects this.

"I think it affected me in a positive way," he explains.

"I was always trying to prove my father wrong. I don't think it affected me in terms of girls. The girls just hit me like a kid in a candy store.

"Going all over the world, girls coming up to you saying 'you're handsome', 'you're the best looking black guy I've ever seen'. Of course you're going to love it. It was a phase in my life when I was young and immature. Girls like a guy who's confident, who has a fit body, who has the confidence to speak about them. What they're like, what they like doing, what inspires them. That's what gets girls off."

Yet in 2010, while playing county cricket for Yorkshire, the playboy lifestyle came to an abrupt halt. "I met a girl," Best says.

"Her name was Lauren Johnson. She was the person that I really wanted to be with. I'd organised for her to come and spend Christmas with me in Barbados. She was a student, and she committed suicide. Not because of me, but because of depression. She was trying to be a dentist, and she was falling back at university.

"That really wrecked me. And I think that's what really made me stop. There was another girl - I didn't put her in the book - by the name of Michelle. We broke up and within a year and a half, she went and married this guy, and had a child. Added to the fact that Lauren killed herself, I kind of gave up the whole 'top s--gger' crown. You get older, you realise your responsibilities. I'm a reformed man."

Best says all this with no sense of guilt or shame, just the same brutal frankness that he brings onto the field. He speaks as he lives as he bowls: with no holds barred, and no compromises.

And almost 15 years into his career, he is still slinging them down: perhaps not at 95mph like he did at his peak, but still pretty damn quick.

"I've had one injury in my life," he claims.

"It's just genetics. We black people have a different make-up. Our body structure, our musculoskeletal system is a little bit stronger. It can endure more. It's genetics. And it's desire. I love my body. It's my money-maker."

Hampshire fans have had their first look at Best in the ongoing four-day game against Middlesex.

And when Best describes himself as "blessed" for the opportunity to play for "one of the best counties in England", it is no idle bluster.

As a student of the game, Best is aware of Hampshire's rich Caribbean fast-bowling heritage, running from Andy Roberts to Fidel Edwards via Malcolm Marshall and Winston Benjamin.

As with all of them, pace is in Best's blood.

"It's the feeling at the top of my mark, that I'm going to let the ball go as fast as I can," he says.

"I feel good when I go to sleep at night, knowing I've put in a hard day's work. That's why I love four-day cricket and Test cricket. That's the real test of discipline, character, fitness. That's what real cricketers play."

Beyond that, Best hopes his silver tongue will earn him a job as a commentator ("my dream job would be to get a gig with Sky Sports," he says).

In a few months' time, his father will be released from prison. And for all the regret and resentment, Best will be there.

"I'll try to help him again," he says.

"Every time I give my dad money, give him clothes, he just uses it for drugs. That's the way it goes. My father broke my heart, man, but I still love him."

And this is Best in a nutshell: a paradox of a man, flawed yet unashamed, loose-trousered yet warm-hearted, endlessly slighted yet endlessly optimistic.

Best takes your laughter and your scorn, and retaliates with nothing but good wishes.

"That's the way I play cricket," he says.

"It's a battle out there. When I'm on that field, I want to kill you. When I'm off that field, you're my brother."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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