Friday, 15 May 2015

The genius of David Gower

I'll apologise up front to anyone expecting to read about poetry and/or birds on this blog, for yet another cricketing interlude. In my defence, I'll say that the subject of this post, David Gower, was one of the very few sportsmen who genuinely deserved that hackneyed old phrase, "poetry in motion".

Here's a fantastic piece on him by Rob Steen, which says everything about why Gower was, to me and to so many England fans, the ultimate batting hero. I've seen better batsmen - no one would argue that Gower was the equal of Viv Richards, or Sachin Tendulkar, or Brian Lara, or several others - in terms of sheer run-making ability, but I've never seen anyone to match him for elegance at the crease. The likes of Mark Waugh, Mahela Jayawardene, Hashim Amla, VVS Laxman and others occasionally came close, but none have managed to sustain that languid grace quite so totally as Gower.

Steen makes great points about Gower's courage, both physical and moral (although oddly he doesn't mention that Gower, like Botham, twice turned down big money offers to play in apartheid-era South Africa, unlike Graham Gooch), and his ability, as captain to get the best from some awkward characters. The 1984-85 tour of India was probably his finest moment as a leader, both on the field, when he led a Botham-less England to a 2-1 win after they'd gone 1-0 down (and in those days, India didn't surrender a series lead), and off, when his calm dignity kept the team together and focused after the assassination of Mrs Gandhi and the British Deputy High Commissioner. After those tragedies, there were calls for the tour to be abandoned, but as this article shows, it ended in success.

I'm not a big fan of the honours system, so I'm not sure I'd back Steen's call for a knighthood, but it'd be nice to hear Gower being lionised by the press and media a bit more, if only because you'll never hear him do it himself.

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