Curtly Ambrose on threatening to 'knock out' Steve Waugh and why West Indies never sledged

May 23, 2020

Sir Curtly Ambrose reflected on the time he threatened to "knock out" Steve Waugh as he and fellow former West Indies quick Ian Bishop starred on the latest Sky Sports Cricket Podcast.

Ambrose rarely uttered a word on the pitch as he amassed 405 wickets in 98 Tests at an outstanding average of 20.99 and explained on our podcast - which was hosted by Michael Atherton and also featured Nasser Hussain - that bowlers who frequently sledge "probably aren't any good".

But the 56-year-old did launch a rare verbal outburst during the Trinidad Test against Australia in 1995 after being riled by Waugh.

"Steve Waugh and I had our battles over the years. He was a tough competitor and I have a lot of respect for him but in that particular game he said something to me that I didn't like," said Ambrose, on a show you can listen to in the Spotify player above.

"Initially I ignored it, as in the heat of the battle you can say things, but after a break something just snapped.

"I asked him, 'did you say so and so to me?' He didn't say yes, he didn't say no. He just said 'I can say anything I want to say' which to me was a yes. I decided I deserved more respect so I had a few choice words for him.

"I said 'my cricket career could be over right this minute, it doesn't make a difference to me, but your career will be over, too, because I'll knock you out and you won't be able to play any more'. There were a few expletives in between obviously!

"I was upset as I deserved more respect - but it started and ended there. I have seen him a few times since and we have never spoken about it."

Ambrose disliked sledging, then, but says he had an aggression that can't be taught, something he was encouraged to embrace by fellow legendary Antiguan bowler Andy Roberts.

"Andy has a wealth of knowledge, he knows about and understands fast bowling. One of the things he mentioned to me was to always be aggressive, to always get under the skin of batsmen. That stuck in my mind coming from a great man like him.

"I don't think you can teach a bowler to be aggressive - it has to be something within you. You can try but if a bowler doesn't have it inside of him, it probably won't work. For me it worked because I am naturally aggressive while I am competing. It naturally flowed for me.

"We never believed in sledging or saying things to the batsmen because we had this philosophy that if you are good enough at what you do, you let the five and a half ounces [the cricket ball] do the talking for you.

"If you keep sledging, you probably aren't any good. That wasn't the West Indian way. Five and half ounces coming at you at 90mph is more than enough!"

Ambrose and Bishop also discussed whether they were intimidated coming into revered West Indies bowling attacks in the late 1980s.

"When I first made the West Indies team alongside the late, great Malcom Marshall, as well as Courtney Walsh and Patrick Patterson, I never wanted to be second. I am a proud person and wanted to be the best I can be," said Ambrose, who now hopes to commentate or coach on a consistent basis.

"I quickly realised for most opposition teams they were probably thinking 'Curtly is a rookie, so just see off Marshall, Walsh and Patterson'.

"I never wanted that and I was forced to learn quickly so I wouldn't be the weak link in the chain. Because of my pride, that catapulted me to stardom."

Bishop said: "I felt strongly that there was a legacy to live up to. The fortunate thing was that I had those guys so I didn't have to carry the burden. I just had to be a support player whenever I got my chance.

"I definitely saw standards, I saw records, performance and I did feel that I could not let those standards drop, so I did kind of feel pressure."

Bishop was limited to just 43 Tests due to injuries but says he has no "bitterness" about the relative shortness of his career.

"I have never one day thought, 'jeez, I regret not being able to accomplish that'," said the Trinidadian, now a respected commentator.

"Growing up I never thought I would play for West Indies, I thought guys who did that were some sort of superheroes, with super-strength.

"Having gotten the chance, and because of my Christian beliefs, I am very level in accepting that I got to play and got to be in admiration of the consistency the likes of Ambrose and Walsh could produce, the mental strength they showed under pressure.

"There is no bitterness whatsoever. I couldn't reproduce the speed, I couldn't get through the gears or consistently exhibit the control I wanted, so when I retired it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders."

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