Legendary West Indies cricketer Sir Curtly Ambrose is laying blame for the collapse of regional cricket squarely at the door of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). The WICB’s territorial partners, however, did not get away unscathed.
Fielding questions from the audience at yesterday’s start of the 16th Annual Secondary Schools Leadership Symposium held at the Cascadia Hotel and conference Centre in St Ann’s, Port-of-Spain, titled “Think Big, Start Small,” Ambrose said, if regional officials had an uplifting vision for the future of the sport they would have put systems in place to ensure cricket retain pride of place.
“West Indies cricket,” he replied, pausing. “It’s disappointing. When you look back, many years ago, we were the number one team in the world. For 20 years, we were the best team in the world and 15 of those 20 years we never lost a series. That’s unheard of in any sport. Having been part of it, it hurts to the core. I believe that the West Indies Cricket Board and territorial boards have to take most of the blame! Why? Because when we were the best team in the world, nothing was ever done to nurture the talent.”
“We are very talented people. The talent is still there. Our boards sat back and just believed we would forever produce great cricketers. Other nations put things in place…academies and all that stuff and they have caught up with us and they have gone way past us. We need to change our structure and get some things in place to nurture talent and I am quite sure we can do that.”
Ambrose revealed that in earlier years he did not want to be a cricketer. But that did not stop him from honing his skills to ultimately energise West Indies fans around the world during amazing bowling spells which now characterised his distinguished career.
“Every time I say this, people tend to look at me in a strange way. You have been so successful, (they say) but I must admit I never wanted to be a cricketer. My passion was to be a basketball player. Growing up as a young man I just couldn’t see the fun in playing cricket. Besides, I’m lazy! When I think of five-day cricket, you know…six hours a day for five days, as opposed to 48 minutes on the basketball court? Give me basketball any day… 48 minutes and it’s all over.
“The second love sport is football. And, I figured if I couldn’t get to be a basketball player, I could be a footballer. But my mother who is such a cricket fanatic always wanted a cricketer in the family. My mother had seven children—four girls and three boys. My oldest brother used to play cricket back in Antigua, before he migrated to the (United) States to be with my father. So naturally, I was second in line and my mother kept telling me start to play cricket. Now, that used to really irritate me. Trying to be an obedient child, I decided for her sake I was going to take up cricket and I was hoping it didn’t work out.”
As fate would have it, he started playing club cricket in Swetes, Antigua, back in 1984. One year later, he was selected for the Antigua national team. In 1986, Ambrose was called to service on the Leeward Islands team.
His quality performances did not escape the attention of the West Indies selectors and 24 months later, he reserved a place on the then world famous West Indies team. As he reflected on his career before a capacity audience, Ambrose could not believe he made such as astonishing climb in just four years, in a sport that was not his first choice, but which earned him the right to be called an international cricketer.
Ambrose played 98 Test matches for the West Indies and took 405 Test wickets at an average of 20.99 and topped the International Cricket Council (ICC) player rankings for much of his career to be rated the best bowler in the world.
Reputed to be a man of few words during his career, Ambrose found his voice to enliven then youth constituted audience.
Poking fun at Sport Desk founder and T&T Guardian Sport editor Valentino Singh, the West Indies cricket legend who during his career was described as being notoriously reluctant to speak to journalists, claimed they never wrote what he said. Ambrose was chosen as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1992. On retirement he was entered into the ICC Hall of Fame and was later hailed by an expert panel selected as one of West Indies all-time XI.
“I am a very, very proud man and everything I do, I want to be the best. When I joined the West Indies team, we were the best team in the world and I never wanted to be the weak link. So I was forced to learn quickly and my pride wouldn’t allow me to be second best,” he said.
“Everything starts with a dream and as young men and women have dreams. We have aspirations. It’s not an easy road. They say nothing in life comes easy.
“There is a lot of truth to that statement. There will be obstacles you have to get over. Sometimes your own friends and family may discourage you thinking that you are never going to make it. It’s a fact! Let’s be real. It’s the way of the world. Your friends and family sometimes may discourage you from achieving you goals. It’s up to you to stay focused and no matter what, always commit yourself to achieving those goals,” he said.
“Turn those negatives comments into positives. There is nothing sweeter than proving people wrong. Believe me. I know. I will challenge you to set goals. You must know what you want to achieve in life and, you work hard to achieve goals.”