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May 15, 1999


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Michael Holding

Curtly Ambrose Seven hundred and ninety Test wickets. That's a lot, isin't it? Well, that's the amount of wickets two West Indian fast bowlers have accumulated over the last decades or so.

Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, two great friends and two great fast bowlers who have wreaked havoc amongst opposition batsmen on different types of surfaces and under various conditions. If you need any statistics to compare their performance and really appreciate their effort, think of this:

Curtly Ambrose The original four-pronged pace attack of the West Indies in the late seventies and early eighties - of Garner, Roberts, Croft and Holding - at the end of their careers had accumulated 835 wickets. True, Colin Croft fell from grace when he went on that rebel tour tour to South Africa and so was not available to the West Indies for as long as he should have been. But still, that's only 45 more wickets that Walsh and Ambrose.

Walsh and Ambrose, at the moment, have a combined age of 71, and there has been a lot of talk about retirement for a couple of years now. But they are still getting the job done. There haven't been too many young fast bowlers knocking at the door either, because quite a few have been tried in recent times without a great deal of success.

Curtly Ambrose

Walsh started his career all of four years before Ambrose, although he is only a year older. That was when the West Indies ruled the roost in the mid-eighties. Not unusually, he was used first or second change, and was more or less the journeyman, who had the fitness and ability to bowl long, economical spells. He did the job admirably, without being spectacular, and had his ups and downs in the early years. Looking at him perform now, you would tend to forget that he had been dropped out of the West Indies team on a couple of occasions.

Courtney Walsh But Courtney never allowed that to get him down. Each time he was left out, he showed great form and great strength of character at the first class level to fight his way back into the team. His role has changed in recent years as well. The journeyman is still capable of bowling fairly long spells, but strike bowling is now his forte. At times, Courtney's wickets may seem a bit expensive, but he experiments a lot to take those wickets; not content to just bowl defensively and economically. Some unresponsive surfaces that he has had to ply his trade on have really tested his skill and fortitude. His 424 wickets prove that he has passed many tests with flying colours.

Courtney Walsh Courtney's partner in crime, Curtly Ambrose, once a competitor for the same spot in the West Indies team, compliments him splendidly. Indeed, they compliment each other. Curtly has excellent control over line and length and gives away absolutely nothing. It doesn't usually take him too long to find the off-stump line, whether it be left or right handed batsmen. His younger, more formative years had an excellent yorker.

As he hates to give runs away, he has gradually used his yorker less and less through fear of bowling half volleys instead of the dreaded toe crushers. That is the only negative aspect you could really find about Curtly's bowling.But he has more than made up for that with his steeping bounce and nagging accuracy.
Three hundred and sixty-six wickets testify to his effectiveness and although these days he may not be as penetrative on flat pitches, no one takes advantage of him either.

Courtney Walsh There had been speculation before the first 19-man squad was selected for the West Indies, that neither Walsh nor Ambrose would have been suitable for the seventh World Cup tournament, being held in the United Kingdom, because of their passing years. But they were both selected, with Walsh more of a surprise than Ambrose. True, they are no youngsters and not as agile in the field as they used to be, but the selectors are hoping that their bowling, that is their wicket-taking ability, will make up for any lapses in the field.

Courtney Walsh Both Walsh and Ambrose have tons of experience in the English conditions, having played years of county cricket, plus having toured the United Kingdom with previous West Indies Test teams.
Limited overs cricket is about getting more runs than your opponents in the fifty overs allocated. Sometimes the best way to do that is by bowling them out cheaply. Ambrose and Walsh have the experience and the quality to change the direction of a game with one short spell. In other words, they are strike bowlers capable of taking wickets when the occasion requires and that is not something you snub when it is available.

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