Curtly Ambrose

Q: Who inspired you to become a fast bowler?
CA: It was because of my mother that I became a cricketer and fast bowler. She is the one who influenced me and really forced me into becoming a cricketer. My mother is a cricket fanatic and she always wanted a cricketer in the family. My mother was the driving force behind my playing cricket locally and then professionally.

Q: What do you feel, are the key qualities that a successful fast bowler needs to have?
CA: It’s a combination of things. First of all you have to love bowling and you have to love bowling fast. If you don’t love it, you won’t work as much as you need to. Then you also have to be prepared to work hard. Make no mistake, fast bowling is hard work, it’s not easy.

A lot of people talk about seam and swing and variation are good qualities to have as a fast bowler and qualities that you need to have to be a rounded fast bowler. But what one has to remember is that the basic foundation of becoming a great fast bowler is to be able to consistently bowl a good line and length and put the ball in the right areas. If you have pace and can swing the ball and seam the ball but cannot put the ball in the right areas, then nothing will work and your pace is of no use. As a fast bowler you have to learn to be able to put the ball in the right areas before you learn anything else and everything else after that will make you a more rounded fast bowler.

Q: Your thoughts on Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, two of the all-time great fast bowlers from Pakistan?
CA: Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were indeed two great fast bowlers. That goes without saying. They could bowl very quick when they wanted to, they swung the ball at will and they could seam the ball too. They were more than a handful for any batsman and they worked extremely well together as a pair which is so important in any team. When a team has two quality bowlers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis then that opponent becomes very dangerous.

Wasim Akram is one of my all-time favourite bowlers and any team that I would select comprising of the world’s best cricketers, Wasim Akram has to be in it. I’ve seen Wasim Akram do things with a cricket ball that people like me and others cannot really do. He was such a great bowler and I have a lot of admiration and respect for him.

Q: Shoaib Akhtar’s cricket career could be described as a roller-coaster ride. What are your thoughts on Akhtar and how his career developed?
CA: Shoaib Akhtar was probably the quickest of them all. What I saw of him he was never in the same league as Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis though. Yes he was very quick, he was different, he relied a lot on his pace but he wasn’t able to swing or seam the ball as much as Wasim and Waqar and if his pace wasn’t working then he didn’t have too much to fall back on. Shoaib Akhtar cannot be compared to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as they were in a different league when it came to fast bowling.

Q: Pakistan and West Indies have always had the ability to produce great fast bowlers but that ability seems to be diminishing. Why do you think that is?
CA: One of the biggest problems is that pitches in both countries are not conducive to fast bowling and that discourages cricketers from wanting to bowl fast. The pitches in the Caribbean have deteriorated so much that they are not helping fast bowlers at all. We still have a lot of talented cricketers and fast bowlers in the Caribbean and I believe that once we start to produce better quality pitches, then that will encourage fast bowlers more and we will see better results as far as producing fast bowlers is concerned. At the moment the pitches are very low and slow and as a result of this, our regional first-class competition has been dominated for a number of years by spinners. We need to prepare better quality and quicker pitches in the Caribbean and I guess it’s a similar situation in Pakistan. If you produce good pitches, that produces better cricket and good cricketers.

Q: When you bowled for West Indies you were a fearsome sight. How many of your battles in international cricket do you believe were won in the mind?
CA: I don’t think I put fear into the opposition batsmen around the world. That certainly wasn’t the intention. The thing with me is I am a highly competitive individual and it’s all about my team. For all the years that I played cricket with Courtney Walsh whenever we bowled well it automatically lifted the team, so our role as bowlers was very important to the West Indian team. Yes we are tall men who could bowl pretty quick and we could generate extra bounce, so it was never easy for batsmen to negotiate Courtney and I. However some batsmen negotiated us, but they had to be at their best to come out on top against us. When a batsman made a hundred against us, you knew for sure they have earned those runs. Perhaps some batsmen were intimidated but I can definitely say we never made it easy for batsmen and they knew they had been in a battle against us.

Q: Speaking of Courtney Walsh, you and him certainly formed a fantastic partnership didn’t you?
CA: It was a real pleasure bowling alongside Courtney. We worked well as a pairing and I feel that like batting partnerships, it’s important that as bowlers you hunt in pairs. We backed each other, we helped each other when things got tough and we pushed each other to perform. Our thinking was very similar when it came to cricket and I was very lucky to have him around during my career.

Q: Your celebration when you took a wicket was very passionate and almost unique. What was going through your mind when you took a wicket?
CA: I have no idea what was going through my mind, it was just a blur. I was that pumped up and in the zone that I was just so elated when I took a wicket. It was just sheer joy. When I was on the field I was in the zone and my focus was just on taking wickets and nothing could change that.

Q: The Steve Waugh incident is well documented in your autobiography. Were there any other times when you lost your temper out in the middle?
CA: That was probably the only time in my career that I got really angry. There were moments when I got upset with players during my career but never to the point where I lost my cool to the extreme that I did with Steve Waugh. I was always somebody who preferred to let the ball do the talking for me even when I was upset with a batsman. I didn’t play my cricket like that with verbals, but that was a one-off with Steve Waugh.

Q: It seems remarkable that you never lost your cool when bowling to Javed Miandad?
CA: I certainly had some interesting ‘battles’ with Javed. He was a wonderful cricketer. He was by no means the most elegant batsmen you will ever see but he made sure that you had to work hard as a bowler to get him out. He was a batsman who would frustrate me and no doubt other bowlers but I always had the utmost respect for him and his cricketing ability.

We never had any exchanges of words. There was a mutual respect between us. He would go about his business in his own way and I would go about doing what I was supposed to do and we never felt the need to exchange any harsh words.

Q: Some bowlers seem to have a lot to say to batsmen. However it seemed that you were a bowler who never felt the need to sledge the opposition?
CA: I never felt the need to offer too much advice to batsmen when I was bowling. In fact I hardly felt the need to say anything to batsmen. Likewise the batsmen who were facing me didn’t have much to say to me either. I always thought that as a professional my job was to get on and do my job as a bowler and take wickets. With most of my opponents there was this mutual respect and admiration. However, when it was needed, sometimes a stare was enough to unsettle the batsman.

Q: What’s more difficult, playing cricket or coaching?
CA: Coaching is a new experience for me, it’s totally different. I find coaching harder than playing cricket. When I played I believed so much in my ability that no matter what the situation was I believed that I could bowl my team to victory. However as a coach you are talking to the players a lot and advising them, giving them ideas and opinions, but at the end of the day once the players cross the rope and go onto the playing field there is nothing much you can do as a coach to help them. You can only hope that they implement the plans properly. – []