Courtney Ambrose: A Legend of the Game

Although basketball took over my life when I moved to Los Angeles in the late ’90s, my first and true passion was Cricket. When I started watching and playing cricket in the early 90’s, I was always in awe of the bowlers from every corner of the world. Running down, winding up, placing it perfectly, my 8-year old counterpart dreamed of being a bowler. Too bad my shoulder probably would have never let that happen, but I will say one thing: I was as good at bowling at that young age as I have been at playing hoops. Okay, enough about me … let’s talk about a legend.

In the 90’s, the cricketing world saw some of its greatest swing and fast bowlers come through its ranks. I remember my uncle showing me games and highlights of guys like Ambrose, Wasim, Allan Donald, and Walsh, explaining that these bowlers were making batsmen not want to come to work. Out of all the players I had a chance to watch and admire, no one was more inspiring than West Indian fast bowler Curtly Ambrose.

The 6’7″ Ambrose actually had no initial interest in playing cricket; at a young age, he dreamt of playing basketball at a professional level. If I say he looks like Dikembe Mutombo, is that wrong of me? Well, he kind of does! In fact, he almost migrated to the US at age 16 to pursue his hoops dream.

The greatness of Ambrose could be seen in his wide range of skills: he never restricted his bowling to bounce and pace, and was equally good in using the seam movement.

“Bowl a proper line and length consistently, you will get wickets and will be successful.” – Ambrose

His height and wirey arm/wrist size contributed a great deal to the velocity of his bowling. The wrist would snap forward at the point of release, giving it an extra thrust in its trajectory.

What got me to write this post? Ambrose’s play at Perth in 1993. In my opinion, it was one of, if not, the most unforgettable bowling spell of the modern era.

Ambrose demolished the Australian batsmen in his spell of 32 balls, in which he claimed 7 wickets! Ice Cube needs a song about messing around and getting 7 wickets.

Fun Fact: Ambrose improved on the record of Sarfraz Nawab (Pakistani Test cricketer) of 7 wickets for 1 run in the spell of 33 ball against Australia in a 1978-79 series.

Ambrose’s play was just indescribable. Six of the seven wickets were either caught by the wicketkeeper or slip. His bowling gave the batsmen ZERO time to react, hurrying them into making mistakes.

Fun Fact: Of all the bowlers after 1990, Ambrose has the lowest economy rate. He has an economy rate of 3.47 in ODIs which is unbelievable.

Ambrose announced his retirement after the Pakistan series in 2000 and officially left the game after a few more test matches against England. I’m pretty sure he plays guitar now for a small band, and he’s having the time of his life. We never got to find out much about who Ambrose was as a person, as he always shied away from media attention, but from his play on the pitch, we know not to doubt the man. His legacy is extra-special because he is the last of the great west Indian fast bowlers. He filled the spot of Garner well, but since his retirement, no one has filled his place.