Tribute to yet another West Indian great

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Wednesday, August 30, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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The most acceptable, though not by any means, a likeable, truism in cricket is that great fast bowlers invariably haunt in pairs.

The West Indies have produced the biggest crop of quality and more successful pace bowlers than any other country. While the rest of the cricketing world have invariably struggled to have a powerful spearhead of a pair of fast bowlers, the West Indies have always had double that strength.

The only time spin was king for the Caribbeans was when Sonny Ramadhin (a freak bowler, who turned both ways with the same bowling action) and left-arm Alf Valentine rattled all before them in England. Then a solitary reaper in the form of Lance Gibbs, rated as one of the greatest off-spinners of all time, complemented pace at the other end in a most effective manner.

Then suddenly, a few years ago, the nasty men in the fast lane began to leave the scene and this was the main reason that West Indies cricket appeared to lose their way despite having several world-class batsmen. But it was not long before a new devastating pair of fast bowlers came in the shape of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

When they established their partnership firm in the business of demolishing batting line-ups everywhere, no one must have had the faintest idea that the two, Walsh and Ambrose, between them, would eventually capture close to 900 Test wickets.

Fans back home of this genial fast bowler, which includes several prominent media personalities, seeing his current performance in England, have been making appeals to him not to give up the game as yet.

But this God-fearing, mild-mannered man, who goes by the name of Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose, appears to have made up his mind and his future plans. He is still one of the greatest in the game and can yet generate tremendous pace, bowl a lethal bouncer and send down a yorker that can test the skills of the greatest of batsmen to the limit.

The sight of Curtly Ambrose in his run-up resembles a horse taking off in a slow gallop, without the slightest hint of speed. From his final run-up to the delivery stride, one sees a complete transformation. With a bowling-arm so straight and high, he can send the ball crashing into the batsman, or make it leave very late, on either side of the wicket.

Unlike most fast bowlers, Ambrose possesses a far wider repertoire of deliveries, making him a complete fast bowler in the manner of his mentor Malcolm Marshall.

Although his strike-rate, nor his pace, has diminished much, one can see a great physical struggle writ on his weather-beaten face these days. Back and groin injuries haven't made matters any more comfortable for him. The recent demise of his "guru" Malcolm Marshall seems to have affected him further that he appears stubbornly inclined to call it a day.

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