In any successful player's career, the most difficult decision is to decide whether it is time to call it quits and hang up his boots. The one famous quote of Vijay Merchant, in fact his often repeated quote over All India Radio those days, is perhaps the most apt in this context. He said that a player must always retire when he is asked "why" instead of waiting for a time when he will be asked "why not?"
The recent decision of Curtly Ambrose to retire from Test cricket comes at a critical juncture for the West Indies team. Just when the fortunes of the team appeared to turn around under Jimmy Adams, the chinks in the West Indies batting armoury has surfaced leading to a record series win for England in over three decades. This dismal performance has been in spite of the super human bowling effort of Courtney Walsh and Ambrose who between them virtually carried fire into the English camp.
There have been calls from all over the cricketing world for Ambrose to reconsider his decision as the fortunes of the Caribbean team are linked to his bowling. His ability to tie up one end has often resulted in the success for his bowling partner Walsh. His departure from the team will cause not only a big vacuum but will also diminish Walsh's effectiveness to some extent as genuine pacers like to hunt in pairs.
The mercurial Vivian Richards has given a call to his Antigun teammate to "hang on" for at least one more year for the sake of the West Indies cricket. But it is easier said than done. As Freddie Trueman, the England fast bowler who was the first to reach the milestone of 300 Test wickets, said while speaking of someone overtaking his tally "aye, but whoever does it, will be bloody tired". That was the 300 mark, but Ambrose has recently crossed the 400 mark.
West Indies cricket has always been associated with quick bowlers. But after the exit of Ambrose and with Walsh not likely to hang around after reaching the 500 land mark, what will be left behind will be a handful of fast medium bowlers, which every team possesses. It is therefore not surprising that many West Indies supporters have been after Ambrose to review his decision on retirement.