Note – the launch referenced here actually took place on April 11th – the same day of the Wadadli Pen Awards, which had me doing a bit of rushing around. I’ve already posted the book to the non-fiction and general Antigua and Barbuda book lists but I’m only sharing the article I wrote after the launch here now because I had (and still hope to) tap in to a paying market (maybe when I’m done reading the book). Anyway, here it is with congratulations to West Indies Cricket great, Curtly Ambrose.
After much resistance, Antiguan and Barbudan Curtly Ambrose sat with Richard Sydenham for a biography titled Time to Talk. As Ambrose is notorious for doing all his talking on the pitch, this book is potentially a must-get for cricket lovers. But what if you’re not a cricket diehard? Does the book, released this April (2015) by Britain’s Aurum Press, have anything to say to you? If the launch is any indication, in its set up of the rags to riches story that took the Antiguan cricketer around the world and back again, it just might.
Ambrose was both thoughtful and quick-witted, affable and cutting, exuding charisma and confidence and at the same time humility and appreciation comfortable in the spotlight of a tumult of questions from media representing every major sporting publication and then some, on island for the English v. West Indies Test.
“The time was right,” Ambrose said in response to the inevitable ‘why now’ question. “I felt passionate, confident about it; this is the time. The book is from the heart, a true book, not fiction, and it will make very special reading.” And as if that weren’t teaser enough, he gave off all the airs of a man who owns his history and legend, and his opinions whether on past rivalries or the future of the once epic West Indies team. “I don’t believe enough was done to nurture the talent that we have,” he said of the team.
Jack Matthew, sports anchor at the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Network summed up career who first picked up the ball in 1984, got called up to the West Indies team in 1988 and then went on to icon status. But more remarkable than the stats – which I won’t get into here because if you know cricket you know them already and if you don’t know cricket that’s not what you’re here for, anyway – is the fact that cricket wasn’t even his calling. He wanted to be a basketball player, football was his fallback. Matthew said something that felt counter-intuitive in this summary, “thankfully the dream faded and reality took over.” But maybe it’s not about giving up your dreams but adjusting them, adaptability.
Cricket may not have been Ambrose’s first choice but when he was in, he was all in, as became clear when he said, in his advice to wanna-be players, “first of all you have to love what you do; if you don’t love it, it won’t work.” And love, he emphasized, is an action verb: “You have to be committed and be prepared to work hard.” Later, in the book launch Q & A, in response to a question from Sir Vivian Richards, also an Antiguan and an even greater legend, he spoke about the need for young players to rely less on innate talent, and exercise patience in putting in the work to build the foundation; “to be more consistent with the line and the length that they bowl” not just go for the glory of big shots.
This is reflected in his career arc. “I never wanted to be captain,” Ambrose said. “I lead with my bowling.” Rather than go for the big shot – captaincy – he worked hard at being the best he could be at playing his position. “I didn’t want to be the weak link,” Ambrose said. “I wanted to be the best at what I do.”
The struggles of his early life were likely part of the impetus pushing him toward greatness. “We didn’t come from a rich family,” he reflected. “We never had much. I don’t know how she (my mother) did it.” But did it she did, and lived to ring the bell for every wicket taken by her son; lived to see him bowl – and sometimes bat – the team out of those moments “when all seemed lost”.
Ambrose is active now as a mentor in the game, a testament to the power of determination; and that perhaps is what the book can teach those of us who are non-cricketers. I may have to come back and let you know when I’m done reading it…
The book is now listed in the Non Fiction and general book list on this site because it may not have been written by an Antiguan and Barbudan but it is very much about one of our most distinguished sons of the soil.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.