The choices are numerous for those of us happiest nestling into a favorite couch with a good book on a Sunday afternoon. Time constraints sometimes demand a shorter read, like Between Wickets, an admirable twice a year Australian newcomer or maybe for lovers of ‘60s and ‘70s nostalgia, a back issue or two of the UK-produced Back Spin.
There’s nothing quite like being able to ‘disappear’ into a book, totally engrossed and engaged in the moment. The most compelling authors build their storylines with delightful insights, enhancing the reading experience and making you wish every day could be a lazy Sunday.
The depth and standard of recent new issues has been fascinating. My own favorites include first-time authors Daniel Brettig’s Whitewash to Whitewash and Simon Jones’ The Test, which mixes autobiography and secrets of reverse swing with an insider’s account of the greatest Ashes Test series of modern times in 2005. The cover is unpretentious and Jones little-known outside the UK, but it’s as good a tour book as I’ve read, right up there with Jack Fingleton’s iconic Brightly Fades The Don (1949) and Alan Ross’ Through the Caribbean (1960).
It was with a little curiosity last weekend that I addressed Chris Gayle’s Six Appeal and fellow West Indian Tino Best’s Mind the Windows.
Gayle’s book was soon dismissed. It’s poorly-written and trite. An ‘unputdownable’ memoir — as the publishing blurb boasts? No. Soon for the remainder bin? Yes.
Maybe the story of another star from the Caribbean, Tino Best, the son of a jailed cocaine dealer, would be more satisfying. Best has nothing like the strut of cricket’s ultimate party animal Gayle, but he hails from the cricketing Citadel of Barbados, was once timed at 98mph and made 95 against England, a then world record Test score by a No.11.
It started full of promise: ‘I love bowling quick,’ Best says. ‘It makes me feel free from everything. I’ll be standing at the top of my mark… my blood’s pumping and the adrenaline’s going. The whole world is blocked out. I can intimidate a batsman, hurt a batsman, get them jumping around… are there 10 guys in the history of the game who have bowled faster than me? No.’
He talks of his forgettable Test debut in his own hometown against the 2004 Australians and opposing his hero Brett Lee. Totally unnerved by the company and the occasion, he was smashed, sending down an erratic combo of long hops and wide ones. It was 12 months before he was picked again.
Returning with an action remodeled and revitalised by Wayne Daniel, he was to unsettle some of the world’s very best like Mahela Jayawardene. He even hurried Kumar Sangakkara and had the best of Graham Thorpe.
But in between the hits and blow-ups with fellow players and coaches, comes an extraordinary nonstop diet of boasts about his sexual prowess and performance. If Best is to be believed, he has slept ‘with 500-550 girls all round the world’ including 40 in 11 weeks and three in one night during an Australian tour where he played only the back-up games.
Several times he admits to being a ‘man whore’ — ‘I love girls and girls love me’.
He rates himself as ‘the best looking bald-headed guy in the world’.
When his ghostwriter belatedly returns to the cricket, Best boasts how much he likes hitting batsmen and ‘hearing that clunk’. ‘I’ve broken five hands, five forearms and a few toes too.’
Never once was he intimidated by anyone except Kevin Pietersen — ‘I’d always want to give him a single and bowl at the other men’. He would also never sledge Sangakkara as ‘he’d bat like a man possessed.’
It’s likely that no sub-180 cm cricketer has ever bowled faster. Or has been so garrulous.
Mind the Windows, Tino Best My Story compares with Derek Underwood’s Deadly Down Under (1980), Joel Garner’s Big Bird Flying High (1988) and Nathan Astle (2007) as the least-compelling Sunday afternoon reads of them all.
It’s all very convenient to cite cultural differences between the Caribbean and other lifestyles as a reason for his blatant promiscuity. But why bother putting it in a book?
There are no stats, no index and the little fibre that is in there is totally overshadowed by needless boasts from a cricketer totally in love with himself.