West Indies pace great Curtly Ambrose is livid with Chris Gayle’s decision to end his international career by playing a Test match, calling it a retrograde step that will send a wrong message to youngsters in the island nations.
After a 125-run defeat to India knocked West Indies out of the World Cup, Ambrose, who is in England doing radio commentary, also seemed unhappy with the “lack of application and clarity of thought” in their youngsters.
Asked about Gayle going back on his retirement plans and instead playing one last Test against India, Ambrose made no bones about what he thought of the dashing Jamaican’s decision.
“If Chris Gayle wants to play an ODI series or a T20 series, well, that’s not a problem. In terms of Test matches for me is a no no,” Ambrose told PTI during an exclusive interview.
“Gayle hasn’t played Test matches for five years. There you go... Bringing him back for one Test, I think, is a backward step. What kind of message are you sending to the younger players? ODIs and T20s are not a problem as he still is a destructive player but Test matches, no, definitely not,” said the fearsome fast bowler of the 1980s and 90s, who took 405 wickets in 98 Tests.
While he didn’t agree with Gayle’s change of mind, he also couldn’t accept the manner in which West Indies’ campaign went on a downward spiral after the first game against Pakistan.
“Firstly, it’s their lack of application and secondly they are not thinking enough about their cricket,” the 6 feet 8 inch Antiguan didn’t mince words.
“It has got nothing to do with their skills because from time to time we have seen very good skills on display as they have looked a very good team. In my opinion, the two things that have brought about West Indies’ downfall are the thought process and lack of application. It’s as simple as that.”
The generation that came to the fore in the late 80s was inspired by Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering team and the batches of the late 90s took inspiration from the likes of Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Courtney Walsh and Ambrose.
The icons for the current generation are Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard, who are stars in the franchise world of T20 cricket.
Ambrose found nothing wrong in it but urged youngsters to strike a balance.
“I don’t think it’s an issue as cricket is cricket. No matter what form you play. If you are good enough, you are supposed to make adjustments and adapt from T20s to ODIs to Tests. It’s just that they are not thinking enough and have become very impatient.
“These youngsters (Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer) have to sometimes understand that when the bowling is very good, you need to respect that. Because it gets easier if you can stay longer at the crease,” he said, speaking about the basics.
As talks turned to the financial rewards that come with plying trade in T20 leagues across the globe compared to playing Test cricket, Ambrose termed it an individual choice.
“Everyone makes their own choice. Representing the West Indies should be an honour. Not saying that you shouldn’t play T20 cricket in different parts and become financially safe, but what I want is for them to strike a balance wherein they can do both.
“They should represent the West Indies and also play for different franchises around the world.”
But are the youngsters in the islands interested in wearing the white flannels, and Ambrose answered in affirmative.
“We still have enough players who can do well in red ball cricket. Not so long ago, we beat England in the Caribbean in a Test series, right? We drew with them in ODIs. So it’s not that we don’t have enough talent and I will keep saying that show some patience and application, they can do much better.”
He briefly spoke on Indian cricket and just like everyone else, he also found Jasprit Bumrah to be a special talent.
“He is very different from every fast bowler that I have seen so far,” said that man who once took seven wickets for a run in a Test match spell against Australia at Perth.
“He is smart, understands the art of fast bowling and is an asset to this Indian team. Yes, he is very new to international cricket and I don’t want to make comparisons with the likes of Kapil (Dev) or (Javagal) Srinath, but obviously, the way he is going now, if he continues to improve and learn, he will be a force to reckon with in international cricket.”