Slow pitches and inexperience leading Windies to downfall: Ambrose

Curtly Ambrose said getting into the habit of winning will help West Indies Getty Images

By Ashish Shukla

Antigua: Jun 11, 2011

Legendary fast bowler Curtly Ambrose made no bones about the fact that West Indies cricket is in a “terrible” state and would require lot of effort to regain its part glory.

“The present standard is very, very bad and the only way interest can be revived is if we start winning some matches,” said Ambrose, who took 405 wickets from his 98 Tests.

The giant fast bowler who terrorised the best in the world throughout the 90’s feels that slow pitches have contributed a lot to the decline in the breed of fast bowlers.

“Two things have contributed to the downfall of West Indies cricket. Firstly, the pitches in the Caribbean have really slowed down and secondly, there is no deal of great experience which is being passed around in the dressing room,” he lamented.

He recollected his early playing days when interaction with Malcolm Marshall helped him finetune his skills.

“When I joined the team, I learnt a lot just interacting with Malcolm Marshall, and later with Courtney Walsh. Now these guys (the present team) have nobody to talk to; they are just sharing between them whatever little they have learnt from international cricket.”

Ambrose is also disappointed with the fact that West Indian fast bowlers have forgotten the art of intimidating batsmen. “I think it’s very important for a fast bowler to be intimidating. He must intimidate batsmen. I used to do it. I liked to soften them up.”

Even though Ambrose was aggressive, it never affected his economy. A third of his 3000-odd overs in Test cricket were maidens and his career economy rate was a mere 2.31 runs per over. He didn’t play much against India but his affection knows no bounds for Sachin Tendulkar.

“When I first watched him, it was in England in 1990 when he appeared a schoolboy. Yet watching him hit his first century at the age of 17, you knew here was a special talent.”

Two years later they were squaring up in a World Cup game in Basin Reserve Park in Wellington and Ambrose dismissed Tendulkar with a lovely delivery that kicked off from short of good length to take his outside edge.

“He was a young guy and I was senior. So I needed to keep that equation,” Ambrose remembers laughingly.

Being reluctantly pushed into cricket by his mother at a rather late age of 21, Ambrose made it to the West Indies team within three years. Yet it took him the next two years to really start thinking about the game seriously.

“The mantle of being world champions was falling off and a guy like me really had to learn very, very quickly. It helped that I was naturally very strong, very competitive and very aggressive.”

For the Antiguan, the toughest batsman he ever bowled to was David Boon of Australia not to mention former Aussie skipper Steve Waugh with whom he nearly exchanged fisticuffs.

However Ambrose still has a great deal of respect for Waugh.

It was the Trinidad Test of 1995 series against Australia. Waugh was repeatedly hit on the body by Ambrose’s steepling bounce. He let out his steam with a few chosen ones and enraged Ambrose to the extent he stood next to him, glaring and a physical contest wasn’t far away.

“I really wanted to hit him. We were trailing the series. I was being frustrated. But we settled it then and there. It didn’t go beyond the pitch.”

Ambrose though had the last laugh when he won the Test for West Indies and helped them square the series 1-1.