LONDON: West Indies great Curtly Ambrose has told leading Caribbean cricketers taking part in the Indian Premier League they cannot expect to come straight back into the Test side.
The legendary fast bowler is now a member of the West Indies' coaching staff and saw first hand how a team without IPL stars such as dynamic opener Chris Gayle still managed to hold England to a 1-1 series draw, thanks to a five-wicket win inside three days in the third and final Test in Barbados earlier this month.
Ambrose, while conscious of the lucrative contracts on offer in the Twenty20 tournament, said all players who signed up for the IPL had to understand the consequences of their actions.
"First of all, I believe we should try our best to feature our strongest team," Ambrose told reporters at Lord's on Thursday during the first day of the first Test between England and New Zealand.
"Unfortunately, some of our top players are in the IPL at the moment. You can't really stop someone, or you shouldn't stop someone, from making decisions," added the 51-year-old.
"They've got to decide if they want to play for the West Indies or go to the IPL," said Ambrose, who in 98 Tests from 1988-2000 took 405 wickets at an average of just 20.99 — a mark of an all-time great.
"I know it is a lucrative thing, the T20 and the IPL but, at the end of the day, we have to work with who we have.
"My only concern is that many of the guys we are working with who stay in the Caribbean, we are working with them, they are doing pretty OK and at the end of the IPL stint, should we just allow these guys to come straight back into the team? For me, I think not."
Ambrose said keeping faith with up and coming players such as 23-year-old all-rounder Jason Holder, was the way to get the West Indies, pre-eminent from the mid 1970s to mid 1990s, back to the top of world cricket.
"You've got to make a decision. I prefer to keep working with the younger players, nurture them, and hopefully in a few years we'll be a force to be reckoned with," he said.
Inconsistency is a problem that has plagued successive West Indies teams since their glory days and one Ambrose is determined to eradicate.
"We've got the talent but to be a force in world cricket, got to be more consistent, win more games, got to win series," he insisted.
"One game here or there is not going to make you a top team. That's what I'm preaching mostly, consistency."
To that end, Ambrose was often seen giving fiery team talks just before the side took the field during the England series.
"I'm a very passionate person when it comes to my sport. I take my sport very seriously and my little huddle just before the guys take to the field was just some last-minute encouragement, trying to get them pumped up and know the things they ought to do, the self-belief they should have," Ambrose explained.
The Antiguan was renowned as a taciturn figure in his playing days, his habit of saying little to anyone summed up by the phrase "Curtly talks to no man".
But he's broken his silence with the publication of an autobiography entitled 'Time to Talk', in which he tries to ally some myths about his career.
"'Curtly talks to no man' — that was just something I got branded with. I've never said that to anyone," Ambrose insisted.
"I preferred to let the ball do the talking for me.
"That's why the title of the book is so significant. From not talking to now talking."
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