Book review: Time To Talk by Curtly Ambrose

Sunday's five-wicket win and drawn series against opposition four positions superior in the ICC Test rankings won't spark long-term success overnight for the West Indies, but certainly bodes well for the yearning expressed in Curtly Ambrose's new autobiography, Time To Talk.

Ambrose, dominant as a player but despondent as an observer, consistently rues the decline of West Indian cricket, but punctuates the disappointment with predictions of a return to the top in 15 years.

While Australia's loss of greats such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, and Matthew Hayden required tempering and recovery over several years, Ambrose understands the West Indies will require almost two decades to hopefully achieve similar heights in the wake of Brian Lara, Desmond Haynes, Carl Hooper, and Courtney Walsh's exits.

Ambrose himself didn't feel he truly belonged in the Test match arena until the arrival of his 100th wicket, so Jason Holder, Jerome Taylor and company must be afforded a prolonged period of grace and gratitude. The fast-bowling fringe of yesteryear – Mervyn Dillon, Reon King, etc – didn't impress Ambrose entirely. Holder and Taylor, though, generally do.

Telling statements like "Hooper had more talent than Lara" and "West Indian people are the hardest to please, one day you are the greatest the next you are the worst" epitomise the former fast bowler's frankness. Courtney Browne's propensity for cracking under pressure and Junior Murray's fairweathered commitment, meanwhile, cop considerable criticism.

Ambrose is quick to draw the line, time and time again, between on-field ferocity and mutual respect away from the pitch. A barrage of short deliveries to Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting didn't necessarily embody a vendetta, thought the lanky right-armer often notes the Australians' inability to successfully negotiate bouncers. 

Personal mentors Enoch Lewis and Malverne Spencer are praised throughout, but Allen Stanford is effectively jailed from Ambrose's memory. "He was a big American tycoon who didn't care much for losers. He was like, if you're a winner in life then good on you. You deserve your huge pay cheque; if you're a loser, bad luck," speaks volumes.

Fans would have appreciated more anecdotal insights, from inside the dressing room and alongside the pitch, while the neutral could have enjoyed apt recollection of Ambrose's most staunch opponents. His list of 13 greatest cricketers, at least, serves the latter to a satisfactory degree.

Time to Talk
by Curtly Ambrose and Richard Sydenham
Aurum Press Ltd
Pages 288, £18.99 (hardback)

Ivor Cecil