Jan 26, 2021 Sports
By Sean Devers
As predicted by most people knowledgeable about cricket, the depleted West Indies have lost all three ODIs in Bangladesh and the frail batting line-up does not inspire much hope when they clash in a much tougher Test arenas as they face Bangladesh in a Two-Test series which starts next month.
Asked why he thought the past players, especially those who played from 1980 to 1995, when the West Indies never lost a single series, performed outstandingly in all conditions while the present crop struggle to win matches, former West Indies fast bowler 57-year-old Curtly Ambrose give his views on this and other issues concerning his life and West Indies cricket while speaking on the Sean Devers Sports Watch on Kaieteur Radio.
“Let’s be real here, people keep comparing these guys to the players from the glory days we had from mid 1970s and mid 90s…. that is a 20-year span. It will be extremely difficult to find players of that calibre once again.
I am not saying that we don’t have talented players in the Region…we do, but how are you gonna find players like the Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall…it’s gonna be very difficult.
So I don’t like to compare the guys today to those guys…It’s a different era. Cricket has changed significantly and we can only use the product what we have now.
Who we have now, we have to work with them and try to find ways for them to improve, win games, win series and move up the ICC rankings,” said Ambrose, who captured 405 wickets from 98 Test matches; only Jamaican Courtney Walsh has more among West Indians.
Ambrose, who hails from the Village of Sweets in Antigua, has 255 scalps from 176 ODIs and 941 wickets from 239 First-class matches in a career that spanned between 1985 when he made his debut against Guyana at Bourda to 2000 when he played his last ODI against England at the Oval.
“I think where we went wrong was many years ago when we were the best team in the world. I don’t think the West Indies Cricket Board or the territorial boards did anything to nurture and harvest the talent we had. I think they just sat back and believed that we would continue to produce great cricketers while the rest of the world were putting things in place…Academies and things like that…while we did noting and as we see now all the other countries have moved ahead of us and we are now paying the price for not putting Academies and stuff in place,” Ambrose who never played youth cricket and never had formal coaching, continued.
Ambrose performed well academically, particularly in mathematics and French, and became an apprentice carpenter upon leaving school at the age of 17. “Basketball is still my first love and I wanted to move to the US were my dad and most of my family members lived. I wanted to go to College and play in the NBA but my mother encouraged me to become more involved in cricket,” said Ambrose who made his debut in the English County Championship for Northamptonshire in 1989.
When South Africa made their Test comeback in 1992 in a solitary Test against the West Indies, Ambrose’s devastating spell of 24.4-7-34-6 scripted a famous West Indies win. Set a modest 201 for victory, South Africa ended the fourth day at 122 for two. On the fifth day they could add only 26 more runs in the historic game in Barbados.
Ambrose, whose 6-24 destroyed England for 46 in Trinidad in 1994, and his series-clinching spell of 7-1 against Australia at the WACA the previous season, spoke about importance of pitches to the development of players as he explained bowling at Antigua Recreation Ground.
“In the earlies, the ARG used to be a good pitch for bowling with good bounce and pace but if you were a good batsman you could also score runs, but in the 90s it got slower because of the change in the groundsmen and after a while it got slower and flatter and it became good for batting and hard work for the bowlers, but initially it was a good cricket pitch.
The sir Viv Richards Stadium is not quite the same. There are days when it is good for batting and days when the ball will bounce and seam. What I find in the Region the pitches have deteriorated so badly that the players now don’t play the short ball very well. The pitches are low and slow and the ball hardly bounces above your waist but when we go overseas now and the ball bounces above the waist we can’t survive against short pitched bowling which is not our style of play.
We have to get back bouncy tracks in the Caribbean so our batsmen can learn to play fast bowling and learn to hook and cut but I don’t think the turf is the main problem. From my experience of having around pitches and stuff and being around the groundsmen … you can’t tell them nothing, they have this notion that they know everything. When you tell to do a bit more or a bit more grass the first thing they ask is what you know about pitches and I don’t think they know what they are doing. A lot of times I hear them say it’s going to be a bouncy track with bounce and seam but the track is flat,” lamented the 6ft 8 inches’ pacer.
The legendary pacer feels that former players are not involved in West Indies cricket enough.
“I have always made it known from the time I left cricket that I wanted to give back to West Indies cricket since I have learned so much playing for so many years and gained so much knowledge and I want to help West Indies cricket…and when I say West Indies cricket I mean Antigua, Barbados, Guyana and have made that known. Yes, I have been involved here and there but in the general scheme of things, we as former players are not involved enough but it’s not our call … you want to give back but it’s the people in charge who makes the decisions so we are waiting,” explained Ambrose who was the Windies bowling coach for a brief period.
“My greatest achievement in sports was to represent the West Indies since being able to represent your country in anything is the greatest honour and privilege, especially since I never wanted to be a cricketer, so representing the West Indies team after playing for Antigua and then the Leeward Islands and being so successful is my proudest moment,” said Ambrose who never played club cricket until he was 20.
Ambrose, who is among only 15 pacers with over 400 wickets in the history of Test cricket which began in 1877, was the fifth bowler in the world to reach that landmark says, he thinks his success with the ball was mainly because of his pride of being West Indian. Sir Richard Hadley, Kapil Dev, Courtney Walsh and Wasim Akram were the only bowlers to reach the landmark before Ambrose.
“I wanted to be the best so I would say that pride was my biggest asset,” said Ambrose who now plays the bass Guitar for a band called Spirted with the same members and the addition of two females to the first band he played for called ‘The dread and the ball head.
During the first Final of the Benson and Hedges Cup, Dean Jones asked Ambrose to take the sweatband off his right wrist, as the ball got camouflaged in the process. He obliged, but his body language changed. An infuriated Ambrose ran through the Australians with 5 for 32. Australia lost by 25 run.
“West Indians in my time never sledged anyone.We were dominant and let the ball and the bat do the talking,” said Ambrose as he was reminded about that game.
Ambrose explained how he got into playing music. “I always wanted to be in a band when my cricket days were over and before he was West Indies Captain, Richie Richardson would always travel with his Guitar, play the bass Guitar in their hotel room and I would beat on the table to unwind after a day on the field,” added Ambrose who said he hopes the West Indies will be more competitive in the Test series.
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