Those Halcyon days…

In those years, their reputation was so formidable that many a TV watcher ducked behind the settee of his lounge room, there were those in the Press box who went to lunch white-faced and young lads could be heard to say that three rounds against Mike Tyson was a pleasant alternative to successive overs from Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, writes Ted Corbett.

An old-fashioned friend and I were standing in the corner of the Press box watching England take on the powerful West Indians when, not for the first time, Curtly Ambrose sent a rocket ball past some miserable batsman and strolled down the pitch to see how much damage he had done.

The stare he gave the poor soul might have stripped the skin off his entire body.

“Look at the impertinence on his face,” snapped my colleague, brought up in an age when he was unused to a professional sportsman being cheeky.

“Hardly impertinence,” I said. “Curtly never speaks.”

That is how we all thought of this great fast bowler. Big — that is well above 6ft and a half — wide and silent.

So, who was the giant who invaded my TV screen the other night, happy to exchange jokes and old stories and giggles with the lady presenter and looking like that same Curtly Ambrose, but older? Now, of course, he is the West Indies bowling coach which means that there will be a 100 per cent improvement in their results if he can teach his new pupils ‘The Stare’.

I hope he does. You don’t have to offer vile words, suggestions that the batsman and his father are not really known to one another and that none of the opposition could tell the handle of the bat from deep mid-on to have an effect.

‘The Stare’, especially from so high, will cause enough terror without the need for added words. But as for the new Ambrose — is this the terrifying fast bowler who used to say: “Curtly talks to no man”? It does not seem possible.

I certainly hope that Ambrose and his immediate boss — I suppose in industry he would be known as his line manager — Phil Simmons turn West Indies around. Those of us brought up in the 1980s and for 20 years after are often embarrassed to see the misery they have endured since.

In those years I watched them home and away and, believe me, their reputation was so formidable that many a TV watcher ducked behind the settee of his lounge room, there were those in the Press box who went to lunch white-faced and young lads could be heard to say that three rounds against Mike Tyson was a pleasant alternative to successive overs from Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

Walsh was an emotional, committed cricketer and when he and Ambrose destroyed that first South African team to tour the Caribbean I walked over to him to ask for his thoughts which came tumbling out of him. He said I should remember that he no longer had to contend with the shadow of Malcolm Marshall and that he felt that now — it was 1992 — he could reckon himself a man of merit in the WI side.

Meanwhile another friend of mine asked Ambrose the same question and was told: “I got nothing to say.” How life has changed — and for the better.

Not so in camp England where confusion follows madness follows deception. The England and Wales Cricket Board still seem to have no idea how to pass news, information and opinion to the wider world.

Thus they have made a mess of the sacking of Alastair Cook as World Cup captain, of the sacking of Paul Downton as director of England and of Peter Moores as coach; of rumours that the national selector James Whitaker was to lose his job, that KP was being gently guided back into the side before being dumped once more and of the appointment of Trevor Bayliss as coach after weeks of stories that the post was going to Jason Gillespie.

They clearly do not care that the public — so pleased when England showed fight and spirit and skill in defeating a strong New Zealand team — must be totally bewildered, especially as for the previous week they had heard nothing but Andrew Strauss, successor to Downton, repeating that the Board no longer trusted Kevin Pietersen.

The real question now is whether we can trust anyone in cricket’s high places.

If a board allows rumours to go uncorrected, if statements are never contradicted, do they imagine that they will finish with a trustworthy image?

The effect may not be seen immediately but over a period of time the idea will sink into the dullest mind that you cannot believe a word that emerges from Lord’s.

I hope that some of the many newspapermen who are friends of the English cricket authorities — and there are a number of rich and important public relations men among the crowd at Lord’s for instance — will whisper that there is a different way.

Cricket does not just have to sit back and giggle at the stupidity of reporters when stories go wrong. There are ways to get the right story into the paper of your choice and if they want to ring me — or any of a dozen or more journalists with the knowledge — they could get back on the right path.

Perhaps it is too much to ask. Perhaps they prefer that half-truths, rumours and distorted tales get into print but life would be simpler for the men in power if they would take trouble over their public relations.

All I can say is that if the once silent Ambrose can appear on television, giggling and clearly enjoying himself under a barrage of questions about his mum ringing her tiny bell whenever he took a wicket overseas, anything is possible.