Wednesday, April 17, 2024

THE SCORE: Not the best treatment


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WEST?INDIES fast bowler Tino Best has endured many ups and downs in a chequered cricket career but his recent omission from the Barbados team is really unfortunate and untimely.
Best’s fall from grace could not have come at a worse time for the fiery fast bowler, who has an outstanding record for Barbados with 200 first-class wickets in 63 matches.
After he was dropped for the match against Trinidad and Tobago at Kensington Oval last month, Best wasn’t selected in the squad for the fifth-round encounter against Jamaica at Sabina Park when Fidel Edwards was recalled but didn’t make the starting 11.
While Best, who has played 25 Tests with moderate success, taking 57 wickets at 40.19 runs apiece and Edwards (165 wickets in 55 Tests at 37.87) can’t make their national side, three other fledgling fast bowlers – Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite and Miguel Cummins – who have not yet played a Test match between them, have been given the nod. 
Now that Holder is off to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the selectors have again bypassed Best, who is second only to Pedro Collins (254 in 64 matches) in the all-time list of leading wicket-takers for Barbados in regional first-class cricket.
Instead of restoring Best in a straight swap of fast bowlers, the selectors have mystifyingly opted for rookie 20-year-old wicketkeeper/batsman Shai Hope in the 13-man squad for Barbados’ last preliminary game against the Leeward Islands.
One would have thought this was the opportune time to get Best back in the national side with the West Indies due to play New Zealand in a three-match home Test series in June.
What message is the Barbados selectors really sending to their West Indies counterparts with regards to Best, who – however you look at it – has been the spearhead of the regional team’s Test bowling attack for the past year in the absence of the injured Kemar Roach?
Only last year, Best, despite being an in-form West Indies pacer at the time after two five-wicket hauls against Bangladesh, also had to sit out the final against Trinidad and Tobago because the selectors didn’t want to change the triumphant semi-final side. He was also not selected for a single match of the NAGICO Super50 Cup which Barbados won.
Now 32, Best’s international career is no longer at the crossroads but heading for a cul-de-sac unless the West Indies selectors, despite the actions of the Barbados’ selectors, keep faith in him.
Looking at the statistics, Best took one wicket in 38 overs while conceding 140 runs, but did he bowl that badly to be dumped from the Barbados side?
In the opening match against Windwards Islands, Best had figures of 10-2-51-1 and 4-1-15-0. Against Guyana, his figures were 8-1-20-0 and 5-3-8-0, while versus Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC), his stats were 9-2-43-0 and 2-0-5-0.
At no time did Best bowl more than ten overs in a first innings or more than five overs in a second innings.
This begs the question. Was he handled properly in those matches? Isn’t there any leeway or allowance for a bowler who has successfully bowled his heart out for Barbados over the past, to have a few lean matches? Why has Best been dropped after a lean patch? We have had batsmen who have been given an entire season without making any significant scores.
I was disappointed with the manner in which he was treated in the second innings against CCC when he didn’t bowl until after 32 overs in the second innings.
On the other hand, the promising Cummins has gone off the boil after capturing five wickets in the first-round match against Windwards, including four in the first innings.
Since then, he has not taken a wicket in his last three matches as his figures have been 6-3-12-0 versus Guyana; 7-0-33-0 and 3-0-14-0 versus Trinidad and Tobago and
9-1-38-0 and 2-0-10-0 against Jamaica. Should he also be dropped like Best because he is now going through a lean spell?
Early Monday morning, I got a call from an irate cricket fan, who told me that I must write about Floyd Reifer continuing to play first-class cricket for CCC instead of a younger player.  
For his benefit, let me repeat that Reifer, who will be 42 years old in July, has long gone past his best as a batsman in regional cricket. In the two matches he has played this year, his scores are one and five not out versus Barbados and ten and four against Windwards.
For the record, I will again highlight his meagre returns in the last four seasons of regional first-class cricket.
In 2010, he scored 235 runs in six matches from 12 innings at an average of 19.58 with two half-centuries. In 2011, he had 261 runs from 15 innings in eight matches, at an average of 17.40 with a solitary half-century.
In 2012, Reifer managed 164 runs in six matches from 11 innings at an average of 16.40, with a highest score of 40 and last year he could only muster 211 runs in six matches from 12 innings at an average of 17.58 with one fifty.
But because of his longevity while playing for a side, which seems to value his presence more than his production, the durable Reifer has amassed more runs in regional cricket than any other batsman.
However, by overstaying his time at the crease, Reifer, who is reportedly retiring from first-class this year, is now only averaging 30.88 overall in 153 matches.

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