Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lord David Gower

"Gower never moves, he drifts" "The way Gower bats he is an inch away between an exquisite stroke and a nick" "Difficult to be more laid back without being comatose"
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One of the finest batsmen England have ever produced

Growing up as a kid, we all had heroes. The glory hunting Liverpool fans at school would have Dalglish, whilst in North London depending on which end of the Seven Sisters Roads' football teams you followed, it would be Glenn Hoddle or Liam Brady. This young lad was different however, and from the moment I saw him amble to the crease, took his guard as a twenty one year old making his debut in test cricket, and proceeded to hook Liaqat Ali of Pakistan for four with the first ball he received, David Gower became my hero.

I say ambled. Everything about Gower was stylish. He walked like a cat to the crease, a bit like an albino Starsky played by Paul Michael Glaser, you know the real one, not the modern day rubbish! He languidly took guard, proceeded to just have a mere glance around before magically wafting that wand, as he leaned into yet another cover drive, barely hitting it, yet the ball would be at the boundary at the speed of light. No Bothamesque heaves from David, just classical strokeplay.

I remember racing home from school once when we were playing India at Edgbaston in 1979, to find lulu, as he was known, on the verge of a double hundred. When he got it I was pleased for days, weeks even! He could also be infuriating too, and he was often out wafting, caught in the gulley or behind the wicket. He had a poor series against the 1980 West Indians, getting dropped in the home series but then played an outstanding knock at Sabina Park on a quick one to save the game with a 154 not out. Rumour has it on this tour, he timed the pants off as many ladies as he did cover drives...allegedly!

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Not many players do this to their first ball in Test cricket

Back to England in 1981, a year famous for recessions, Royal Weddings and riots; sounds like the deja vu of 2011, although not sure when we'll see a domestic final between Derbyshire and Northamptonshire again like we did that year? Albeit a fantastic game if anyone remembers it? Anyway back to David, and Gower struggled against the Aussies all year and was dropped for the final Test in favour of Paul Parker. A turgid tour to India followed under Keith Fletcher with slow pitches, boring games when we couldn't dismiss their batsmen, and umpires who cheated more than a deaf man when playing charades!

Gower was soon back in the centuries though and a hundred on tour against the Aussies, along with a couple at home to New Zealand and another brace in Pakistan cemented his place in the team.

Bob Willis was the current England captain. A monosyllabic man in press conferences often rarely uttering more than the odd word, the outspoken Willis we see today on Sky is a very different man from the one we knew back then. Gower took the reins when Willis' knees went, and his first full series was the "Blackwash" of 1984. 85 came and a mere 732 runs at a shade over 81, were scored by the great man as he led from the front, skippering as we regained the Ashes. Tally ho and the stuff Boys Own was written about.

We then proceeded to get battered in the West Indies again losing 5-0 and David was relieved of the captaincy. He missed the 1987 World Cup - can you imagine a player missing a tournament like that now??? - before coming back to score an excellent ton as we beat Australia under Mike Gatting.

Gatt was soon relieved of the captaincy for playing a game of "hide the sausage" with a waitress at the Rothley Court hotel whilst England captain, and no he didn't try and eat it! After the ridiculous and embarrassing summer of 88 when we had four skippers, Gower was soon back in charge for the Aussies in 89.

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Not for the last time on the tour to Australia, Gooch went nuts at Gower's decision to go aerial!

No chumminess this time from his mate Allan Border, as this Baggy Green team proceeded to wipe the floor with us. At one point when accused of being "laissez faire", Gower got up, left the press conference and went to the theatre. Class!

Gower then played under Gooch and the work ethic regime of the Essex man, didn't seem to fit in with the ethos of Gower. Gooch was incandescent with rage when Gower and John Morris, went up in a Tiger Moth biplane and did loop-the-loops over the ground. He was fined £1000 for his troubles and would have been considerably more had he released the water bombs he had taken with him! Gooch's moustache nearly fell off a couple of weeks later when Gower was caught flicking at long leg, the ball before lunch! Gooch subsequently didn't take him to India after the following series at home to Pakistan in 1992, and despite a no confidence vote by MCC members, Gower's Test career, had come to an end.

He finished with 117 England caps and 8231 runs at 44.25, and if he had played now he would have been well over 50. However, it is not the figures and statistics that always make me raise a smile when I think of Gower, but that delicious, glorious cover drive. An English legend.

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