The towering figure looks just as good for a game of cricket as it did when Curtly Ambrose quit the game in the September of 2000. Arguably the most lethal bowler of his days and up there with the very best to have emerged from the Caribbean, the 43-year-old does not like talking cricket these days.
The guitarist with dreadlocks in Big Bad Dread and The Baldhead, his band with his sometime captain Richie Richardson on the bass, says he has “severed all ties” with cricket and having given “half his life” to it, wants to relax and enjoy. He did want to help West Indies cricket, but told scribes in a reluctant chat the opportunity never came by.
“Before I retired, Courtney Walsh and I told the cricket board that we had learnt a thing or two about fast bowling and would love to share that knowledge with young bowlers of the region. But I have not been asked even once to assist them. Maybe I don’t know enough about fast bowling. I must sit back and see what happens.”
The bowler who turned many a match upside down in a single spell said he himself did not need the kind of help he was trying to offer. “I was self-taught as a cricketer. I listened to people, watched, picked up things from here and there and saw what would work for me. I didn’t want to be like any of the great fast bowlers to have come out of the islands. I figured out what suited me and tried to put them together to be the best I could.”
The first man to represent West Indies from a village called Swetes, which later produced Ridley Jacobs, said facing challenges made him what he was. “You are not always going to get things your way. To prove how good you really are, you have to bowl to batsmen who are set and scoring runs. If you don’t face these challenges, you are never going to learn and be a good fast bowler. You have to fight and find a way to get them out. He wins today, tomorrow I will get him.”
With increased focus on fitness these days and many fast bowlers making a beeline for the gym, Ambrose revealed it was not the place for him. “There was no gym for me. I did a lot of running and swimming, but no matter how much you do that, you have to go to the nets and bowl a lot. You can be the fittest player in the world, but if you don’t do a lot of nets, you are going to struggle in the middle.”
The gentle giant, who used to clap before appealing when he was sure he had got his man, did not idolise any fast bowler but admired one, nonetheless. “I think Wasim Akram is the greatest. He has done things with the cricket ball no other fast bowler has. He was quick from a short run-up and had strong arms. He would hit the deck and if there was nothing in it, he would still get around and mess you up. Either way he was the most difficult man to negotiate when he was fit.”
The simple soul said what made him happy was the happiness his inclusion in the West Indies team gave to his villagers. “It was special, when I became the first from my village. There was jubilation and I became a hero. They couldn’t wait for me to go and play.” Just how happy they still are is reflected in a banner welcoming visitors to the village that reads, 'Welcome to Swetes, the home of Curtly Ambrose and Ridley Jacobs.'