By Neto Baptiste
Fast bowling great and one of four knighted cricketers here in Antigua, Sir Curtly Ambrose, said he almost walked away from the game at an early stage in his career.
Having claimed 405 wickets in 98 Tests, Sir Curtly said brushes with the selection politics associated with West Indies cricket had left him distraught in 1990 after he was left out of the squad for the first Test against England in a series which started in Jamaica when selectors claimed he was “sick”.
“For the second Test match in Guyana the same team was selected, however, the late great Malcolm Marshall pulled out because of an injury and that’s when they sent for me to replace Marshall in Guyana and I said, not me, I am not going anywhere. If I wasn’t fit enough or good enough to play last week then I can’t be fit this week,” he said.
“I was at Factory [Cricket Ground] training with Taddy and I remember my good friend Hugh Gore was the one who came to me and literally cried and said to me Ambi, you have to go, go and prove them wrong. Then is when I said to him, maybe you’re right and then I started to focus a little more on taking the cricket seriously and that was my first brush with West Indies politics,” he added.
Sir Curtly was chosen as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1992 and after he retired, was entered into the International Cricket Council Hall of Fame and selected as one of West Indies’ all-time XI by a panel of experts. He also claimed 225 wickets in 176 One Day International (ODI) matches.
Quite ironically, cricket was not his game of choice at an early age.
“Growing up, for me, I wanted to be a basketball player, basketball was my passion and then followed closely by football. Even when I made my debut for West Indies in 1988 I didn’t really take the cricket that seriously but I am a proud man and once I take to the field I am going to give 100 percent and I want to be the best but in the back of my mind I was still thinking basketball and moving to the States [USA] because my father lives there, my brother and sisters live there so I was thinking move to the States and play basketball,” he said.
“I only started taking the cricket really seriously in 1990, two years after [making my debut] because the people from Swetes [hometown in Antigua] they decided I wasn’t playing any more football and you aren’t playing no more basketball, so go and play cricket,” he added.
In 1993, Sir Curtly bowled one of the greatest bowling spells of all time, when he took seven wickets while conceding a single run against Australia in the first spell. Similarly, in 1994, he claimed six wickets for 24 runs to help bowl out England for just 46 runs.