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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

How Curtly Ambrose saved the day

Former pacer, now bowling consultant, convinced team to play Dharamsala ODI, a game they wanted to boycott .

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Mumbai |
Updated: October 20, 2014 8:21:22 am
Ambrose (L) told the players they should make any decision they wanted to after the game. Ambrose (L) told the players they should make any decision they wanted to after the game.

It was the eve of the fourth ODI in Dharamsala, and Anurag Thakur had just left the West Indian team hotel, having delivered a stern caution. A no-show, the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) chief had warned the Caribbean visitors, could well lead to a law-and-order crisis in the hilly city. While the cautionary note did somewhat soften the steadfast stance of Dwayne Bravo & Co with regards to boycotting the match, they were still left in two minds having already taken the decision to call off the tour abruptly.

Then Curtly Ambrose stepped in. Just like he did with ball in hand during his glorious career, it was the fast bowling legend from Antigua who had the final say. And as The Indian Express has learnt, it was Ambrose’s intervention that ensured that Bravo and his men even stepped onto the field on Friday.

Following Thakur’s departure, the 51-year-old Ambrose, who is presently the bowling consultant of the West Indies team, rallied the troops around him before delivering a rousing speech that lasted half-hour. According to sources in Dharamsala, Ambrose spoke about how important it was to keep up the legacy of West Indian cricket and how the players shouldn’t let the HPCA’s hard-work go to waste. By the end of it, each member of the team walked up to Ambrose, shook his hand and pledged to play on.

“They were still adamant on not playing. Ambrose told them that we are here already. After the game, you can make any decision you want to make. When someone of that stature speaks like that, it was natural for the boys to listen,” the source said.

Williams to the rescue

But if Ambrose saved the Dharamsala ODI, it was assistant coach Stuart Williams, who was responsible for the West Indians agreeing to set aside their issues with WIPA and WICB and going out to play the opening match of the series in Kochi. Williams might not enjoy the same kind of awe as Ambrose or manager Richie Richardson within the West Indies dressing room. Moreover, he’s known to be a man of few words. However, it was the former opener who took charge of the West Indians’ first huddle on tour just before their maiden practice session at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai two weeks ago.

“Stuart has been heavily influential in keeping the team together as far as their cricket is concerned. In Kochi, it was he who eased all the tension. He deserves a lot of credit for the first match taking place,” the same source said.

Meanwhile, Richardson has had the toughest job of them all, being the conduit between the WICB and the players on tour. But to his credit, the former West Indies captain has been his cool, unfazed self and has held things together in ‘dignified’ fashion.

Ill fated tour

The tour itself has seemed ill-fated from the time Sunil Narine was sent home, and the contract-issue between the West Indian players and the WIPA raised its ugly head on the eve of the opening ODI. And somehow it seems inevitable that the visitors are heading home on Monday—a month before they were supposed to as per the original schedule.

But fortunately, the likes of Ambrose, Richardson and Williams, who fought so hard to keep the West Indian legacy alive on the field, have made sure that some off it has prevailed off it as well during what was an otherwise forgettable and regrettable three weeks for the men from the Caribbean.

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