Curtly Ambrose, a reluctant cricketer who became a legend
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At 47, His Highness or better known as Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose is still perhaps as fit as he used to be during his era of domination. The short mop of braided hair on the top of his mighty pate and the fashionable beard bordering his long features, according to Ambrose, are his attempts at looking younger. The fieriness and the if-looks-could-kill stare, which often left batsmen shaking in their boots, are all things of the past.
The Ambrose of today is extremely relaxed and ebullient, and is also ever-willing to break into a loud and uninhibited laugh. In contrast to the enigmatic personality, who always came across as being reserved — in fact, stern — the Antiguan doesn't mind talking and responding to queries about any aspect of his cricket these days.
In fact, he even admits to having been a reluctant cricketer for a majority of his career. And he also reveals that the culprit for the dent in many batsmen's averages against the West Indies between 1988 and 2000 was, interestingly, his mother.
"I was always more interested in basketball. I started playing cricket because my mother is a cricket-fanatic. She's got three sons and she always wanted one of us to be a cricketer. My mother basically forced me to play cricket. And then to try and please her, I did. And, like they say, the rest is history," says Ambrose, who only started playing club cricket at the age of 21 in his village of Swetes.
Though he made an immediate impact in international cricket, despite having the unenviable task of filling into the shoes of the likes of Michael Holding and Joel Garner, Ambrose didn't take cricket seriously initially.
"Anytime I would get a break, I would come home and play basketball. Even the day before my first ODI in Jamaica I was playing basketball at home.
"Pride was the most important thing (that shaped my career) because I don't like to lose and I want to be the best. So once I took the field, as much as I didn't like cricket much, my whole personality changed. I didn't want to be a weak link in the world-class team," says Ambrose, who ended up with 405 Test wickets.
During his illustrious career, Ambrose also formed a dreaded new-ball pairing with Courtney Walsh, and in the company of whom he demolished a number of batting line-ups in the world, including the 46 all out humiliation of England at Port-of-Spain in 1994. "We didn't really start off as friends. Our friendship really started after we became roommates. He loved cricket, it was his life. He would train during the off-season, while I would just go about my business. Maybe that's why we are great friends, because he loves cricket but I don't," he says with a smile.
These days, when he is not busy strumming his bass guitar alongside former captain Richie Richardson for the band, Spirited — the duo formerly played together for the band Dread and the Bald Head — Ambrose occasionally does radio commentary for matches in Antigua.
But cricket is still way below in the pecking order of his priorities. "If given a choice I would always be a musician rather than a cricketer. Cricket was my job and it was too much hard work anyway," says Ambrose before slapping his thigh and exploding into an almighty laughter.