The fieriest spell ever: 12 things you might not have known about Curtly Ambrose

Indianexpress

Indianexpress

Author 2019-09-21 12:45:25

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He was one of the finest pace bowlers of not just his own era, but of all time, claiming over four hundred Test wickets in a career spanning over a decade. But although his deeds spoke for him, West Indies pace legend, Curtly Ambrose was a man of few words on and off the pitch (his stare could be blood-curdling though, especially if you were the batsman facing him). So it was hardly surprising that he called his autobiography “Time to Talk.”

With forewords by Richie Benaud and Steve Waugh, the book reveals a side of the tall pace bowler that even some of his most ardent fans have not seen.

1. Even though his mother was a huge cricket fan and kept trying to get him interested in cricket, when he was a child, Ambrose was actually more interested in basketball, football and (yes!) marbles.

2. Ambrose loves Chinese karate movies. But Westerns are his favourite. His favourite actors are John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson. Is that why he grew up to be the strong, silent and (likes Eastwood) tall type? Worth a thought!

Take out time and watch him grab 7 wickets for just 1 run against Australia. It is the greatest spell ever by a fast bowler.

3. He loves calypso and reggae music, with Culture and Peter Tosh being his favourites, and Bob Marley being the greatest of them all. He would take up music very seriously indeed later on – check points 6 and 12.

4. His first job? In a clothes store. He felt it was not ‘manly’ enough, so he looked for a more manly job and started working as a carpenter. Perhaps it was here that he learnt the art of dismantling batting line ups.

5. He met the girl he married, Bridget, in 1988. But they got married only in 2001 after he had retired from international cricket. “There never seemed to be enough time to get married while I was playing,” he writes. Opposing batsmen would wish he had taken time out, we wager.

6. He started playing a guitar thanks to his teammate (and later captain) Richie Richardson, with whom he shared a room during the 1991 tour of England. Richardson would play the guitar, Ambrose would thump the table as if it was a drum kit and also sing (Richardson did not like to sing evidently). During the tour, Amrbose bought his first guitar – a black headless Steinberger bass guitar. And while Richardson got him interested in the guitar, his first proper music tutor was Everton Benjamin, brother of West Indies pace bowler, Kenneth Benjamin and member of a band called LA Crew.

7. Guess who was one of the batsmen who irritated him the most? England’s Jack Russell! “He wore a hat he must have got from WG Grace, his pads didn’t fit right, he always looked untidy, he never looked like an athlete or a sportsperson and when he was batting, he was just an irritation,” Curtly writes. Mind you, he does say he “respected him as a fighter” and “a good bloke.”

8. He may have looked like the consummate athlete, but Ambrose is not much of a gym person. “You would never ask Curtly to go in the gym and lift weights and all that that nonsense,” remembers West Indies legend Desmond Haynes, and then adds: “Give him a ball and he would bowl the whole day for you.” Batsmen would have preferred him in the gym – and tried to lock him inside!

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9. He was never much of a talker on the field – he would rather glare than sledge – and was not too keen on giving interviews either. “Speaking to someone is an easy thing to do…I just never cared much for talking about myself,” he writes. He however insists that he never ever said “Curtly talks to no one,” a quote that has been attributed to him.

10. On the Steve Waugh confrontation at the Queen’s Park Oval, Ambrose admits he got ‘seriously’ heated when he thought Waugh had sworn at him, and had lost his ability to restrain himself. “Man, I will knock you out – here and now. I don’t care if I have no career left,” is what he told he Aussie batsman as he advanced towards him before his captain Richie Richardson pulled him away. “I did want to get physical. I was going to beat him, I was that mad…beating him would have given me some satisfaction,” Ambrose writes. A narrow escape for Tugga, we think.

11. The best all rounder Amrbose has ever seen? “Better than Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee.” Jacques Kallis. No debate there.

12. After retiring, Amrbose got into music in a big way. He was a member of a band called Big Bad Dread and the Bald Head, which cut three albums and was very popular before breaking up, and is now part of a band called Spirited. A key member in both bands is his former teammate and captain Richie Richardson!

(“Time to Talk” by Curtly Ambrose has been published by Pan Macmillan and is available for Rs 599)

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