In county cricket you are awarded a benefit at a stage of your career when it is natural to look back – but Tim Ambrose is still very much looking forward.
Ambrose, this year’s beneficiary at Warwickshire, has much to look back upon with pride.
Eleven Test matches for England. Several trophies, including a county championship, with Warwickshire. Almost 10,000 first-class runs and more than 500 victims from behind the stumps.
I had a few options but joining Warwickshire was the best decision I ever made.Tim Ambrose
Even a first-class wicket after his canny dismissal yesterday of Adam Voges (Test batting average for Australia: 95.50) in the Specsavers County Championship draw with Middlesex at Lord’s.
Less tangible, but equally prideworthy, is the huge respect he commands from team-mates and opponents alike. Ambrose is a fine, talented, fighting cricketer, but also a rock-solid bloke.
And when he says he wants to give something back to the sport from which he has earned a living, the words are not hollow.
Ambrose is a man who appreciates how lucky anyone is who gets the opportunity to play sport for a living. He understands the history behind a big club like Warwickshire. And since arriving from Sussex in 2006 (his first victim for the Bears: Tim Bresnan off Jimmy Anyon) Ambrose has been proud to become a small part of that history.
And at 33, having recently signed an extension to his contract, he has plenty more to give – both on the field and off it.
Just coming into a new season you get the gloves back on and remember how enjoyable it is to be out there.Tim Ambrose
“I’ve always been very proud to be at Warwickshire,” he said. “It’s a great honour to play at Edgbaston and to be part of the present and the future which will become history and it’s an honour that we all take very seriously.
“When I left Sussex I had a few options but joining Warwickshire was the best decision I ever made. I had a clear set of objectives in terms of what I wanted from my career and this was perfect for me – a club that wants to win titles but also produce players for England.
“What’s been great in the last few years is that my focus has been 100 per cent on Warwickshire; winning trophies and developing the squad. That’s been my inspiration. You have different stages of your career with different ambitions and goals. The England goal hasn’t been there for the last few years and has been replaced by something I feel equally passionate about: helping the team and the younger guys improve.
“There are a few us in the squad now coming towards the end and the idea is to leave the club in a good place. I think we all look at it in those terms. Above all, the important thing is the club, not the individual.
“For me to receive a benefit is a huge honour. If you look at the people who have been honoured like that at Warwickshire over the years, it is amazing to join that list.”
The good news for the Bears is that Ambrose’s passion for cricket remains very high.
I am proud to have come out the other side still contributing.Tim Ambrose
“Just coming into a new season you get the gloves back on and remember how enjoyable it is to be out there with such high-quality bowlers to work with,” he said. “It is a great job and I have always felt lucky that I chose to keep wicket at a young age. I certainly think it’s been more enjoyable than if I’d been at slip or cover all these years.
“It’s nice to remember, when you get the gloves back on, how much you love doing it. It’s great fun.
“I hope there’s plenty more cricket left in me yet. I’ve just signed a two-year extension which takes me up to the end of 2018 and I’ve got no intention of finishing there so we will see how things lie then. To get towards the back end of my career playing almost better than I ever have is something I am also proud of. “
So well has Ambrose performed, both behind the stumps and with the bat, in recent seasons that a case could certainly have made been made for his Test recall. It didn’t come, so his valedictory innings in the Test arena remains his unbeaten 76 against West Indies in Bridgetown early in 2009.
“Part of me will always think I could have played a few more Tests,” he said. “But as someone said to me the other day, if some things didn’t end disappointingly then they would never end. That’s the way it is in sport.
“I had my opportunity and things went well then not so well but I look back at my England career and see that I was a part of the building block that was to become the number one side in the world. And I certainly feel part of the success we have had at Warwickshire in the last ten years.
“I’ve had some difficult times, as any professional sportsman does if he’s lucky enough to have a long career, but I am proud to have come out the other side still contributing.”