Premature to compare India with West Indies of the past

Premature to compare India with West Indies of the past

This story was first published in Mumbai Mirror on January 31, 2019

This story was first published in Mumbai Mirror on January 31, 2019.

Curtly Ambrose could well be one of the last of the Caribbean greats, having seen the best and the worst (as a coach, if not as a player) of West Indies cricket. In an interview with Mirror from Australia, the 55-year old said the recent West Indies win over England in Barbados was not a false dawn and the Caribbean cricket is, actually, on the upswing.

He hoped the Jason Holder’s team would be able to seal the series against England by winning the second Test, starting on Thursday, in Antigua and also dwelt upon a range of issues, including on the Virat Kohli phenomenon and rather premature comparisons between the Indian team and the West Indies side of the past. Excerpts:

What are you doing in Australia?

I am here for a dance programme. It is an exciting project, something I have never done before. When I was approached, I was reluctant. I was persuaded by my wife and daughters. Now that I am in Australia, I am having a wonderful time, I am expected to do well in the competition. After that, I am open to going to other countries.

Everyone in the cricket world wants the West Indies to be strong again and they had an incredible win in Barbados recently. Have you followed the game?

A fantastic victory. I did not expect it to be such an easy walkover because England is higher-ranked. When no one expects you to win, it eases the pressure. I am quite happy for Jason Holder and the rest of his squad. It was a wonderful job to beat England in such a convincing manner. It is good for world cricket when the West Indies are strong. Because we play a different brand of cricket.

What it can it do to the West Indies cricket going forward?

What happens in the first game is always important in a three-match series. The team now has to guard against complacency. They should forget the first game and start the second Test from zero. They need to refocus and make sure that they continue the good work and seal the series in Antigua.

West Indies, of late, have become T20 specialists. Do they have the wherewithal to sustain quality in a Test series, three-match or five-match?

Of course. When you look at the team, there is a lot of talent in that side led by Jason, the No. 1 allrounder in the world. That says a lot for his cricket. And the captain to have done so well in Barbados (double century, crucial catches and wickets) is huge for the team.

So you seem to say it’s not a false dawn…

I think it (the Barbados win) is a start of things to come. However, we cannot think that we can turn the corner with one victory. We need to win games on a consistent basis and beat teams that are ahead of us. They must move up in the ICC ratings. It’s a fact that we’ve been struggling for quite a few years but we’ve talent and I think the resurgence is around the corner. We can revive the good old days.

But where are the front-line batsmen? The runs in Barbados came from a bowling allrounder’s bat?

Every team needs great batsmen but I am one of those guys who doesn’t like to compare with the past greats. It is always going to be difficult to find players like Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. Yes, we need some consistency from the top-order batsmen, particularly from the openers. On the bowling front, I think it is reasonably good. It’s difficult for the bowlers to defend low totals. The batsmen must come to the party.

What about the skipper?

Before Jason started playing Test cricket, I did some work with him in the regional competitions. I knew the talent he possesses. He was given the captaincy at a very young age. He has done well as a captain. He commands respect from the players. As West Indies, we’re very happy for him.

What about the team’s chances in the World Cup?

It’s not going to be easy. For that matter, it’s the same for every team. When we talk of the favourites, no one gives the West Indies a chance. It can be good for the side. Without that pressure, I believe the team will spring a few surprises in the World Cup.

Have you been following the Indian bowling?

Yes, but in bits and pieces. The fast bowlers have done extremely well in the last few years. When one talked about Indian cricket many years ago, you normally mention spinners. Okay, they had the great Kapil Dev and a few others but the Indian bowling was mainly about spinners. It is different now, quality spinners and quality fast bowlers.

What are India’s chances in the World Cup?

I don’t want to make predictions, because first and foremost I am a West Indian. I would like to see the West Indies win the World Cup. India is a strong team in all forms of the game, led by the great Virat Kohli. They are always going to be one of the favourites.

There is a school of thought in India that the current Indian team can be like the West Indies team of the past.

It’s a little bit premature. The great West Indies team in the past dominated the world for 15 or 20 years. They never lost a series in about 15 years. So, India needs to do well for a few more years consistently. It’s a long way to go.

As a bowler, how do you look at Virat Kohli?

I never really thought about that. When I played, it did not matter to me who I played against, I always believed that I could get the batsmen out. I never thought how good a batsman was. He (Kohli) has got shots all over the ground, he plays both pace and spin equally well, very confident, very classy, easy on the eyes, makes one to sit and watch the whole day.

Was there a batsman who may have been tough to bowl to?

No batsman has ever bothered me. I believed so much in my ability that whoever I bowled to, I never worried about the batsmen. I focused on my game and tried to find ways to get the batsmen out. If you start thinking about the batsman, you would lose focus. I did bowl to some great batsmen no doubt, but I would not like to call names because some names may get left out and that would be unfair.

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