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Sunday, December 27, 2015

When Mark Taylor sludged fellow Oz Dean Jones - asking Ambrose to remove wrist bands !!

At Melbourne, in the Boxing day [2nd Test of the Series] the scorecard reveals : West Indies 6 for 91 trail Australia 3 for 551 declared (Khawaja 144, Burns 128, Smith 134*, Voges 106*) by 460 runs ! ~ another mauling on the cards much to the dislike of Ambrose.

Sir Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose played 98 Test matches took 405 Test wickets at an average of 20.99 and topped the ICC Player Rankings for much of his career to be rated the best bowler in the world. His great height— 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) tall—allowed him to make the ball bounce unusually high after he delivered it; allied to his pace and accuracy. 

 The man known to be totally reticent did speak before the 1st Series egging his team to perform.  Born in Antigua, Ambrose came to cricket at a relatively late age, having preferred basketball in his youth, but quickly made an impression as a fast bowler.  After his retirement, Ambrose has concentrated on music, playing with several bands.  Ambrose was knighted by the Antiguan government in Feb 2014, alongside Richardson and Andy Roberts.

Ask any international batsman plying his trade in the decade or so stemming from the late 1980s and they'll attest that Curtly Ambrose from a distance of 22 yards was a terrifying proposition. So if the blast that he delivered to the current incarnation of the West Indies cricket team from the considerably more intimate confines of a meeting room in the wake of their abject loss to an inexperienced yet irresistible opponent last weekend doesn't rouse a response then the cause is formally lost. Ambrose, has been employed since 2014 as a consultant bowling coach for the once mighty collective of Caribbean nations.  The thumping 10-wicket defeat inside barely three days at the hands of a Cricket Australia XI comprising mainly teenagers of which six were making their first-class debut that brought the former great – known for his brooding, malevolent silence – to his feet in the team debrief that followed.

It can happen only in Australia – Joe Burns given another chance  to cement his position for Australia's crucial looming tour of New Zealand after selectors instead dropped Shaun Marsh for the Boxing Day Test.   Joe Burns retained his place while Shaun Marsh was dropped after scoring 182 at Hobart. Usman Khawaja's return after a month out with a hamstring injury meant that someone had to make way, and Australia's selectors preferred to leave Marsh out rather than split up the opening partnership they believe is the future.  Poor Shaun Marsh during that innings figured in a huge 449-run stand with Adam Voges, the highest fourth-wicket partnership of all time in Test cricket. However, captain Steven Smith said the selectors had viewed the Burns-Warner partnership as important to stick with going forward, given the successful way they had started as a combination this summer.  That is Cricket Australia !!

Moving on, Cricket fans know Dean Jones too well.  Jones came into side in 1984 after Graham Yallop had to pull out due to injury . He was not picked in the original XI, but was drafted into the side after another player too fell ill.  Between 1984 and 1992, Jones played 52 Test matches for Australia, scoring 3,631 runs, including 11 centuries, at an average of 46.55.  We remember him well – for he played in that epic Tied Test at Chepauk in 1986 where he made 210  but was frequently vomiting in the ground due to dehydration.  It was stated that he  wanted to go off the field "retired ill" which led his captain Allan Border to say that if he could not handle the conditions, "then let's get a real Australian" (Greg Ritchie, a Queenslander like Border, was the next man in to bat). This comment spurred Jones  !!!!

Have heard him commenting on the box ~ but this interview of his [from & Sydney Morning Herald] makes very interesting read.  Titled  ‘Rags do not come any redder’  - it reports that  Dean Jones always fancied himself as a bit of a matador but he got it badly wrong when, in a World Series final, he asked Curtly Ambrose to remove his white wristbands. "He was definitely trying some form of camouflage," Jones said. "I didn't think much of it at the time." Ambrose did. He took off his wristbands and tore Australia asunder with 5 for 32.

West Indies' weapon of regicide, whose 405 Test dismissals included captains such as Michael Atherton 17 times, Steve Waugh on 11 occasions, Mark Taylor and Allan Border nine each, would hardly concur with his sentiment. He made it his job to knock the head off a team and then the stuffing out of the middle.  Ambrose was a mean bowler, a terrifying prospect to face, capable of inflicting serious injury as the ball sped out of his hand at 90mph plus from a height of 10 feet. He haunted Graeme Hick during the debut series of English cricket's great hope in 1991, dismissing him six times in seven innings.

Here is something excerpted from that Dean Jones interview :  Many people ask me why I was stupid enough to ask Curtly Ambrose to take his sweat bands off. It become a massive international incident in the cricket world back then and completely changed the fortunes of the West Indies on their 1992-93 tour of Australia. Curtly Ambrose was a very difficult bowler to face. Apart from being tall, quick and nasty, his hand, just before release, always moved around a lot and it was so hard to read a bouncer or length ball. His hand action was something similar to the way you would sprinkle salt and pepper over your food.  Then add in the fact that Ambrose wore these white sweat bands, bowling a white ball, and it just caused massive concerns to all batsmen being able to pick the ball properly out of his hand.

Now the date was January 16, 1993, where we played the Windies in a final of the one-day series in front of a full house at the SCG. In the previous match, Wasim Akram broke my thumb with a short one and I was in serious trouble. I couldn't hold a bat properly and I had a young whippersnapper Damien Martyn hunting for my spot. I had to play the final or I might never get back in the team. The only way I could play was to get jabbed up to take the pain away. Once the anaesthetic took over, I couldn't feel my hand and knew I was in trouble. We won the toss and just before the game started, Bob Simpson thought it was a good time to tell the team who was playing in the next Test in Adelaide. I was the only guy not playing. After being unceremoniously dropped after a good tour to Sri Lanka, to say I was pissed off would be an understatement.

I was furious. So I sat in the corner by myself to watch the game and decided that I would make the best hundred and embarrass Simpson and his selector mates. Just a couple of overs into the match, Simmo thought it would be good to talk to me about what Cricket Australia and the team were going to do for the Adelaide Test. The players were going to have their own rooms and CA would pay for all of the wives and girlfriends to go to Adelaide.  Meanwhile, I noticed David Boon and Tubby Taylor were struggling with Ambrose in particular. Ambrose was wearing these massive sweat bands. I don't know if it was the drugs or what, but I thought if I told Ambrose to take his sweat bands off it would create a massive stir within the Windies team and might get Ambrose to bowl a different line and length.

I thought it would be good time to interrupt Simmo, who was rambling on at the time, talking about a wine tour during the Adelaide Test. I wanted Simmo's approval before I went out to bat. I was blown away when Bob agreed, obviously feeling very remorseful on my non-Test selection. Once Simpson agreed, the whole team went hysterical. "You will get us killed," they yelled at me. So when Boony nicked off to Ambrose, I then passed Mark and Steve Waugh going out to bat. Mark then said to Steve, "He is not going to do it, is he?" I then thought, "gee ... they do talk!" I had never heard them speak to each other in the years I have known them. My first ball from Ambrose was a ripper. It was quick and short and flew past my right ear. I then asked politely for Ambrose to take his sweat bands off. Everyone, from the players to the fans, were in a state of shock. I noticed Ambrose starting to froth up around his mouth and you could hear a pin drop it was that quiet. What broke the silence was when I noticed a guy who was carrying four schooners who yelled out, "You bloody idiot, Jones!"

Well the next three deliveries were probably the quickest I ever faced! I was thinking, "What the hell have I done?" I have a compound fracture of the right thumb and a hand I can't feel. And when the umpire called "over", I had 11 West Indians and one Australian batsman sledging me! Mark Taylor was furious. Tubby yelled out, "What are you doing? I have two kids. What are you thinking?" I really couldn't care less about Tubby at the time as he was going to Adelaide as well. My poor judgment created quite a stir at the time. Ambrose got so mad he took 5-32 and the Windies went on to smash us. Two days later, in the second final at the MCG, Ambrose was still furious and bowled like the wind and took 3-26 to wrap up a series win.

Well, who would have thought five days later in the Adelaide Test, Ambrose would continue the rage by taking 6-74 and 4-46 to even up the Test series 1-1? Test debutant Justin Langer was hit all over his body by Ambrose. But he had my Test spot so I didn't have a lot of sympathy for him. Who was to know Langer would go on to become one of the great openers. A few days later, in the final Test at the WACA Ground, Ambrose was unstoppable and took 7-25. In one spell he took an amazing 7-1 to wrap up the series. I think I got seven phone calls that night from different Australian players still seething about what I did at Sydney just a couple of weeks back. Talk about carrying a grudge!

Can I take this opportunity to apologise to all the Australian players and fans for asking Ambrose to take his sweat bands off. It was an error in judgment and it won't happen again. "Amby" still won't talk to me and he needs to get over it. No one talks about Steve Waugh sledging Ambrose in Trinidad on the '95 tour. There is no justice in this world as Waugh got away with it, but I didn't. Curtly and Steve later agreed to a memorabilia deal that included a set of wristbands and made them thousands. I always knew Waugh was smarter than me.

… with no Ambrose, no anger – Australians are merely toying with West Indies bowling.  At Melbourne, it is  Joe Burns 128; Usman Khawaja 144; Steve Smith 134* (Oz 551/3]; at Hobart Warner 64; Adam Voges 269* Shaun MZarsh 182 [Oz 583/4] ~ it is only a 3 Test Series !!!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27th Dec 2015.

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