October 4, 2012

That languid, Gower summer

In 1985, at the height of his powers, David Gower was flawless, influential, and a lesson to eight-year-olds on what style meant
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Who is your favourite player? It's only half a question because our preferences change with age. As with novels, we are susceptible to different cricketers at different stages of life. The showman, the stylist, the battler: there will be a time for each of them.

In 1985, as a cricket-obsessed eight year old, I was just about old enough to grasp the idea of style. In fact, it may have been a cricketer, David Gower, who introduced me to the concept.

That Ashes summer of 1985 seemed to be a never-ending highlights reel of languid Gower cover drives and nonchalant late cuts. Can an eight-year-old really distinguish an elegant cover drive from all the others? Perhaps only just. But like many childhood experiences, watching cricket was informed by the adult conversations around me. "Did you see that David Gower cover drive? He never looks like he's trying, it's so effortless." When you hear so many adults gasp in admiration, you subtly absorb new ways of enjoying the cricket on the television screen.

That summer's footage has lodged permanently in my memory. Gower batting without a cap or a helmet, the afternoon sun casting long shadows over the field, and Jim Laker and Tom Graveney trying to find new ways of saying, "He seems to have all the time in the world." When Gower reached yet another hundred with a cover drive, the commentator exclaimed, "I'm not sure if the bowler is clapping the shot or the century."

In artistic terms, this was "High Gower". We didn't know it then, of course, but Gower was exactly halfway through his 14-year England career; he was at the peak of his powers. We knew he was great and we knew he was close to his best. And Gower was not making flawless, inconsequential cameos. He was shaping whole matches with hundreds and double-hundreds. But High Gower, like High Federer, was ruthless as well as beautiful.

Style demands economy as well as grace. In 1985, Gower rarely wasted a movement. Even between balls, he remained in character: his Gray-Nicolls bat resting on one shoulder, blade facing the sky, his grip more open than that of most modern players, the handle settled in his hand as though it was a natural extension of his body.

One of Gower's underestimated qualities was his psychological bravery. He had the guts to keep being himself. Most players spend their careers making increasingly pragmatic compromises. We tend only to hear about the people for whom it works. Steve Waugh, of course, banished the hook shot, and developed an iron-wristed front-footed square cut to replace the classic cover drives of his early days. By the end of his England career, Graham Thorpe rarely allowed himself to use the full array of his attacking shots.

The trend is common across all forms of the game. Maturity is usually accompanied by the reduction of risk: the closing of the bat face, the favouring of the leg side over the off, the narrowing of scoring shots to just a few trusted favourites.

When Gower reached yet another hundred with a cover drive, the commentator exclaimed, "I'm not sure if the bowler is clapping the shot or the century"

If anything, Gower went the other way. He never turned away from risk. He never stopped playing his favourite shots, even when it led to recurrent dismissals. It is too easy to call this a failure of discipline. For batting is not only a question of percentages, it is also a matter of voice. Many batsmen, in the search for scientific progress, lose what makes them special, what makes them unique. Gower never did.

A former team-mate of Gower's once said to me that he "never really got better as an England player". He said it mildly, but it was accompanied by a hand gesture to signify a flat-line. I was tempted to mirror the action, only drawing the flat line significantly higher. If someone averages mid-40s all the way along, the point, surely, is that he has been exceptionally consistent, not disappointingly static.

"Late Gower" also inspired my favourite cricket poem. Gower roused the very best from the editor and poet Alan Ross, himself a romantic, writing in the autumn of his literary career:

Arm confined below shoulder level
As if winged, the slight
Lopsided air of a seabird
Caught in an oilslick. 'Late' Gower,
As of a painting by Monet, a 'serial'
Whose shuffled images delight
Through inconstancy, variety of light.

Giambattista Tiepolo
In his 'Continence of Scipio' created
Just such a head and halo.
For this descendant no confines
Of canvas, but increasing worry lines,
Low gravity of a burglar.

Stance, posture, combine
To suggest a feline
Not cerebral intelligence. A hedonist
In his autumn, romance lightly worn,
And now first signs of tristesse ,
Faint strains of a hunting horn.

Watching a champion in the autumn of his career is a double-edged pleasure. There is joy at the unexpected bonus. But sadness that it surely cannot last for much longer.

That was not the case in 1985. We knew there would be many more days like this, with Gower gliding into cover drives, swivelling on pull shots, and occasionally deigning to sweep - though never touching the ground for long enough with his knee to muddy his pad. Yes, there would be more.

But it was surely never quite so good again.

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith's new book, Luck - What It Means and Why It Matters, is out now. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on October 7, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    One of the most elegant left hand batsman...., loved his batting and his commentary is even more fascinating

  • Meety on October 6, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    @ghost_of_len_hutton on (October 05 2012, 02:20 AM GMT) - I agree, the Ozzy attack couldn't of been too bad as it was 2nil up at the time, BUT @AdrianVanDenStael was talking about 1985 NOT 1991. re: Sydney - wasn't Atherton's ton the slowest in Ashes history? The Ozzy attack in 1985 was okay on paper, Lawson was a very good bowler, Craig Mac was a massive threat, but Thommo was way past his prime, SO'D was an ave FC bowler & Dutchie Holland was rarely that good away from the SCG. It was the following year that Bruce Reid & Merv Hughes came on the scene. All up I say the Oz attack was good & so Gower's 200 was a fine knock!

  • dcglynn on October 5, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    I'd rather watch another hundred from Gower than 50 T20 matches.

  • on October 5, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    Quality batsman for sure, but he severely underachieved as an England player. Yes, style is better to wastch than some middle order grinding out a six hour hundred- but for a player of his ability ,he was 3000 runs and 10 hundreds short. Yes, I agree, I would watch elegance over grit, but- you have to utilise those talents. Lara had a grace about him but he produced huge scores. Gower only managed to top 200 twice and 18 hundreds in 117 tests is a relatively poor ratio. Wonderful player though.

  • Paulk on October 5, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    In my time Greg Chappell, Gower, GR Vishwanath, Azhar, Zaheer Abbas, Mark Waugh, Laxman , Barry Richards, Viv Richards (never mind the power and brutal hitting) were all pleasing to the eye. But David Gower was the name that came to mind first whenever style and class and effortlessness came up. Thanks for the memories.

  • Nutcutlet on October 5, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    @Ngod. You miss the point, my friend! Ed's article is not to do with stats (here, there or on Mars); it's not even to do with class - it's to do with style which lives on another & higher plane absolutely: style is art; class is found in the gifted artisan! Ed makes the point that Gower's style wasn't curbed by experience; he didn't cut out his scoring options, even if they were high risk, & that's how he played right to the end of his career. He allowed himself the wonderful indulgence of playing his shots as if each one was a brushstroke on a masterpiece. He, like most artists, was true to his art, not to what I call grubby statistics (see below!).

  • DesPlatt on October 5, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    Great article and I have really enjoyed the comments too. Shane and Ghost_of_Len_Hutton, I remember that listening to that Sydney century under the bedclothes in 91 and drooling with anticipation that I was going to be seeing the last two tests. Sadly Gower was out to his infamous clip to long leg just before lunch at Adelaide that so enraged Gooch he stayed out in the middle to calm down. In the second innings with England involved in a run chase, he was out to an lbw where Ian Chappell said " How could you give that out". At least that match had the compensation of Mark Waugh's debut century and a stupendous century by Gooch, easy wicket accepted. Gower also failed at Perth though think he may have carried bat for 20 odd in a typical England collapse. Meety, Barry Richards was both superb technically and stylishly; I remember a Nat West game when two perfect forward defensives went for four past the bowler Peter Lee, so perfect was his timing.

  • MrPud on October 5, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    My Grandfather took me to Adelaide Oval 1981/82 Ashes and Gower peeled off a magnificent 140 odd, with the usual fluid cover drives and late cuts, but also straight drives on a full length Adelaide before it was roped off. Until then I thought no-one could time the ball better than Greg Chappell, then along came Gower and Mark Waugh.

  • Game_Gazer on October 5, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    What a stylist he was! His whipping leg-glance was also a very classy shot. It's interesting to note that often the batsmen that are languid and graceful are also great at whipping leg-glides/hook off a very good length rib-cracker on the blind-spot (leg'n'middle)...other kinds of batsmen even though great, struggle to keep them down... Eg. Imagine Saeed Anwar, Mark Waugh, David Gower, VVS...whipping off the ribs... Probably because the laziness allows them a calm & a poise that helps in playing such rare strokes !

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 5, 2012, 9:08 GMT

    Gower didn't need guts. He seems to have liked everyone, and didn't want to emulate them, the others being themselves. This has nothing to do with guts. He didn't exactly dislike himself, either, looking at others as he did.

  • on October 7, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    One of the most elegant left hand batsman...., loved his batting and his commentary is even more fascinating

  • Meety on October 6, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    @ghost_of_len_hutton on (October 05 2012, 02:20 AM GMT) - I agree, the Ozzy attack couldn't of been too bad as it was 2nil up at the time, BUT @AdrianVanDenStael was talking about 1985 NOT 1991. re: Sydney - wasn't Atherton's ton the slowest in Ashes history? The Ozzy attack in 1985 was okay on paper, Lawson was a very good bowler, Craig Mac was a massive threat, but Thommo was way past his prime, SO'D was an ave FC bowler & Dutchie Holland was rarely that good away from the SCG. It was the following year that Bruce Reid & Merv Hughes came on the scene. All up I say the Oz attack was good & so Gower's 200 was a fine knock!

  • dcglynn on October 5, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    I'd rather watch another hundred from Gower than 50 T20 matches.

  • on October 5, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    Quality batsman for sure, but he severely underachieved as an England player. Yes, style is better to wastch than some middle order grinding out a six hour hundred- but for a player of his ability ,he was 3000 runs and 10 hundreds short. Yes, I agree, I would watch elegance over grit, but- you have to utilise those talents. Lara had a grace about him but he produced huge scores. Gower only managed to top 200 twice and 18 hundreds in 117 tests is a relatively poor ratio. Wonderful player though.

  • Paulk on October 5, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    In my time Greg Chappell, Gower, GR Vishwanath, Azhar, Zaheer Abbas, Mark Waugh, Laxman , Barry Richards, Viv Richards (never mind the power and brutal hitting) were all pleasing to the eye. But David Gower was the name that came to mind first whenever style and class and effortlessness came up. Thanks for the memories.

  • Nutcutlet on October 5, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    @Ngod. You miss the point, my friend! Ed's article is not to do with stats (here, there or on Mars); it's not even to do with class - it's to do with style which lives on another & higher plane absolutely: style is art; class is found in the gifted artisan! Ed makes the point that Gower's style wasn't curbed by experience; he didn't cut out his scoring options, even if they were high risk, & that's how he played right to the end of his career. He allowed himself the wonderful indulgence of playing his shots as if each one was a brushstroke on a masterpiece. He, like most artists, was true to his art, not to what I call grubby statistics (see below!).

  • DesPlatt on October 5, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    Great article and I have really enjoyed the comments too. Shane and Ghost_of_Len_Hutton, I remember that listening to that Sydney century under the bedclothes in 91 and drooling with anticipation that I was going to be seeing the last two tests. Sadly Gower was out to his infamous clip to long leg just before lunch at Adelaide that so enraged Gooch he stayed out in the middle to calm down. In the second innings with England involved in a run chase, he was out to an lbw where Ian Chappell said " How could you give that out". At least that match had the compensation of Mark Waugh's debut century and a stupendous century by Gooch, easy wicket accepted. Gower also failed at Perth though think he may have carried bat for 20 odd in a typical England collapse. Meety, Barry Richards was both superb technically and stylishly; I remember a Nat West game when two perfect forward defensives went for four past the bowler Peter Lee, so perfect was his timing.

  • MrPud on October 5, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    My Grandfather took me to Adelaide Oval 1981/82 Ashes and Gower peeled off a magnificent 140 odd, with the usual fluid cover drives and late cuts, but also straight drives on a full length Adelaide before it was roped off. Until then I thought no-one could time the ball better than Greg Chappell, then along came Gower and Mark Waugh.

  • Game_Gazer on October 5, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    What a stylist he was! His whipping leg-glance was also a very classy shot. It's interesting to note that often the batsmen that are languid and graceful are also great at whipping leg-glides/hook off a very good length rib-cracker on the blind-spot (leg'n'middle)...other kinds of batsmen even though great, struggle to keep them down... Eg. Imagine Saeed Anwar, Mark Waugh, David Gower, VVS...whipping off the ribs... Probably because the laziness allows them a calm & a poise that helps in playing such rare strokes !

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 5, 2012, 9:08 GMT

    Gower didn't need guts. He seems to have liked everyone, and didn't want to emulate them, the others being themselves. This has nothing to do with guts. He didn't exactly dislike himself, either, looking at others as he did.

  • harshthakor on October 5, 2012, 7:57 GMT

    Watching David Gower bat was like seeing poetry in motion.His batting resembled a painter making curves on a board.Gower ,was also one of the finest one day International batsmen I have seen,with an amazing ability to improvize.Remember his 158 v.New Zealand in 1982-83 and his aggregate of 380 run sin the 1983 prudential cup.

    Amongst English batsman since the wa rhe was arguably the best with Peter May and Graham Gooch,the latter being more combative.

  • Essex_Man on October 5, 2012, 7:38 GMT

    Great article, Ed. Brings back fond memories of the golden summer of '85. I agree with Shane and Ghost of Len - that ton at the SCG in Jan 1991 was absolutely magical. It was the first Test I'd watched overseas and it was a privelege to be there.

  • philipg33 on October 5, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    Great article, although it has to be said that Gower was actually improving towards the end of his career and averaged in the fifties under Gooch before Gooch dropped him for being scoring more runs and girlfriends than him And you probably have to add five to seven runs to a batsmans average of that era to compare him with a batsman of today just as you should take off five to seven runs from a bowlers average.. Which incidentally must make Steyn a real contender for greatest ever quick

  • ghost_of_len_hutton on October 5, 2012, 2:20 GMT

    Along with Shane, I also saw Gower's sweet century at the SCG in 1990-91. He caressed four boundaries off Terry Alderman in the first over of the day, and reached his century from 33 not out overnight ahead of his partner, Mike Atherton, who started the day in the nineties. If AdrianVanDenStael is saying (and its far from clear) that the Australian attack was substandard in that match, I must disagree, as it comprised Alderman, Reid and Rackemann - none of them slouches by any means. On the other hand, Greg Matthews was the spinner...

  • CricketFanIndUS on October 5, 2012, 1:58 GMT

    I was around 10 years when Gower was terrorizing the Indian team as he was scoring centuries and double centuries resulting in Test match wins for England in the late seventies. He is easily my favorite English cricket player. His style was fantastic, yet with a lot of productive runs against India and other countries. I still long for more Goweresque batsmen.

  • mjcoxx on October 5, 2012, 0:29 GMT

    The player on Jonesy's list most comparable to David Gower would be Mark Waugh. I remember both ABC Radio and Channel Nine TV commentators describe him, at times, as resembling a right-handed David Gower. But like the Paul Kelly song says - "There's only one David Gower".

  • Shane on October 4, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    Great article Ed. I saw what turned out to be his last test hundred at the SCG against Australia in 1991. He was 33* overnight. I got into the ground 15 minutes late and he was already 50 plus. I might be wrong but my memory is that he was out before lunch for his score of 123 but maybe it was after. Either way it was a sparkling hundred laced with cover drives and square cuts. It would have to be right up there with the best hundreds I have seen. The only innings I can compare it to was the first 100 of Lara's 287 at the SCG. A truly great knock by 'Late Gower.'

  • whoster on October 4, 2012, 23:32 GMT

    An enjoyable and affectionate article - plus a wonderful picture of Gower to accompany it. I was 11 when he made his debut against Pakistan, and I remember the thrill of seeing his class and elegance for the first time. He certainly didn't lack courage either, and did better than most against the fearsome Windies attack of his era. He'll be remembered for his elegance though, and nobody who saw the runs he got against the Aussies in 85 can forget his sheer grace, as well as his sheer volume of runs as Captain. It's wonderful to see such aesthetic beauty at the highest level of the game, and I'd love to have been able to watch guys like Cowdrey and Graveney who were also noted for their elegance. To finish with an old chliche; one of his cover drives was worth the admission fee on its own.

  • Meety on October 4, 2012, 23:02 GMT

    @warnerbasher on (October 04 2012, 10:56 AM GMT) - I remember that Hughes knock, but my memory has it as more audacious than style, regardless it was breathtaking for a young bloke to watch! The context of the innings against the mighty mean WIndies pace battery makes it even more so. @DesPlatt on (October 04 2012, 10:37 AM GMT) - was too young to really rate B Richards in his pomp, my memories of him were that he was more technician than stylist - I could definately be wrong. @Barry Lloyd on (October 04 2012, 14:09 PM GMT) - YES!!!!!!!! That is about PERFECT!

  • Stuart_online on October 4, 2012, 21:47 GMT

    Barry Lloyd: You allow England 280 so long as 200 came from the elegant bat of Gower. Learning to love cricket in the 60s I was a shade less generous: my fantasy opposition score was West Indies all out for 200..... Sobers 150.

  • 2.14istherunrate on October 4, 2012, 21:07 GMT

    Surely as aesthetically pleasing, exquisite really, batsman as I have watched. People below are making comparisons and putting forward their own candidates, but at the risk of sounding totally off the wall I have only seen one player imitate Gower's style at all and that is Kieron Powell. And I have seen many batsmen. That poem too-beautiful and appropriate. For a contrast between Gower and the other great English batsman of that time,Gooch, nothing showed the difference better than EvI 1990,when Gower made a century in the third test after Gooch had completely destroyed India in every way possible. Gooch had been great but Gower completely eclipsed him with that elevated style of play. Pure genius.

  • AdrianVanDenStael on October 4, 2012, 19:41 GMT

    A strange article. While Gower played well that summer, you would have thought it appropriate to acknowledge what a surprisingly poor Australian attack he had to encounter. Look at England's batting averages for the summer if you don't believe me; even Tim Robinson averaged over 50 that series. As for the concept of "High Gower", if that is relevant, his performances in the immediately adjacent series against West Indies in 1984 and 1985-6 and India in 1984-5, suggest an ascent and declension that would be unusually rapid from an artistic point of view. This suggests an explanation appropriate to arts with which E. Smith would be less familiar. In 1985 in England (as in 1983-4 in Pakistan, and 1990 in Australia) Gower had more compliant tools with which to work.

  • on October 4, 2012, 19:39 GMT

    @Grant Sansom Sherwell - mate I was 21 when Gower played his last test. It was the selectors of the time not picking him to go to India. MCC members in uproar and letters to the Times. True Gooch liked netting and Gower didn't. Gooch never did get Gower at that time lol. However the only person who was likely to end Gooch's career was Terry Alderman (twice) in 1981 & 1989. Boycott saved his career by tweaking his technique and getting a huge number of runs between 90-92. I digress, Gower was still playing as well in his last season as his first.

  • krik8crazy on October 4, 2012, 19:25 GMT

    David Gower is my favorite England cricketer of all time. His batting was other worldly. He is the gold standard of elegant batting. It is no wonder that "Goweresque" is a term used by commentators to describe an elegant shot. Gower batted like a dream and lived life on his terms. He was free spirited and remained so till the end of his career.

    He and his partners in crime Allan Lamb and Ian Botham were the 3 musketeers who made cricket fun to watch. Most of us can only dream. Gower lived the dream. That is why he is so special to cricket fans.

  • colinham on October 4, 2012, 18:56 GMT

    I've always struggled to really support England as it has been very rare for them to achieve a "Brazil like" standard in winning games - they've tended to win but without the style and panache I'd like them to do. I was brought up watching the genius of Sobers, Pollock & Barry Richards down at Trent Bridge, and only Cowdrey came close for the home team (never saw Graveney). However, for a time I could wholeheartedly support my team, with Gower providing genius, elegance & class, Randall keeping me on tenterhooks, both supplementing the brutality of Botham. Great times

  • ashok16 on October 4, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    Whenever I play air-cricket with a stick or a bat in my hand, it is always as a left hander (I am right handed) and I am trying to mimic David Gower. Even after all these years. And when my only live memory of him is during the 85-86 series in India when he wasnt in the best of form.

  • on October 4, 2012, 18:28 GMT

    My childhood idol.....now thats how a personality should be, at least in cricket....I feel he should have taken up painting after retiring from cricket....Gooch might have had a better record against WI, but otherwise most of his runs were made in home conditions....many of his 100s were made abroad and often when England really needed them....that is real class!!! He is the Stefan Edberg of cricket....even his rivals may have found it difficult to say anything bad to him when they were playing!!! Thanks for this article Ed!! You made my day!!

  • aarifboy on October 4, 2012, 18:00 GMT

    Gower along with Mark Waugh were two most stylish players in game.

  • vatsap on October 4, 2012, 17:48 GMT

    I was 10 years in 1985, and Gower was way off form when England toured India in 84-85 and ofcos the Ashes was not broadcast in India, but still I was his huge admirer. The admiration only grew after the 2 blackwashes, where Gower was one of the few English batsmen who stood up to the mighty Windies. The end was sad though. Still love reading the Tiger moth anectodes :-)

  • jjamie15 on October 4, 2012, 14:40 GMT

    Thank you Ed Smith. If ever there was an article that tapped into my cricket experiences of the summer of 1985 (as a ten year old) this is it. It was the summer that I fell in love with cricket and my first memory was watching Gower's 215 on TV, marvelling at his ability and the crowd's appreciation. As a mere club cricketer it was at this age I found cricket was my passion, despite being considerably better at football and many books loaned from the local library on that Ashes series (and the 1986/7 series) have a permanent place in my heart. A superb article, thank you.

  • DrTchock on October 4, 2012, 14:38 GMT

    '82-'83, in pale blue one-day clothing Down Under, to the backdrop of Bill Lawry and Richie commentating; and '85, in whites, in the blazing sunshine, batting from morning til night - Gower In Excelsis.

    '81, at age 7, sport first became a huge part of my life - Botham at Headingley, the FA Cup final....and then the replay and Ricky Villa's goal, Aldaniti and Bob Champion in the Grand National, the end of Borg and his usurping by McEnroe and so on. To this day, I'm still a sports nut. However, my one and only obsession, the one game I still play religiously as I approach the big Four-Zero, the bane of the Mrs life, is cricket. And that is solely because of '85, and David Ivon Gower.

    Not just favourite cricketer, favourite sportsperson, full stop.

    Brilliant, as always, Ed.

  • Ngod on October 4, 2012, 14:28 GMT

    You dude, (HumungousFungus),

    What about the little master Sachin Tendulkar? He also oozes class.

    And to people who say he isn't good, they are just retarded He averages 55 in tests and 44 in ODI's. That is pretty damn awesome. He also has a higher average overseas than at home which is also pretty damn awesome.

  • on October 4, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    As loyal Aussies my mates and I always thought a good day's test cricket was England all out for 280, Gower 200 not out.

  • on October 4, 2012, 14:03 GMT

    it may be little known, but gower was one of two people Ganguly modeled his batting and cricket on - the other was ravi shastri.

  • HumungousFungus on October 4, 2012, 13:45 GMT

    If I close my eyes, I can picture Gower leaning in to a defensive shot at the Oval in 1985 off Jeff Thomson, and the ball screaming to the (very long) extra cover boundary in about a second and a half to stunned reaction from bowler, fielders, and crowd. At his best, he made batting look absurdly simple, which is probably why he polarised opinion so much when he got out. Many say that he underachieved averaging just under 45 in Tests, and they may have a point. However, given that he was batting against the likes of Lillee, Alderman, Roberts, Garner, Holding, Imran, Hadlee, Qadir, Wasim, Waqar, Kapil Dev, Walsh, and Ambrose for a significant number of those runs, playing a game he admitted he found boring on occasion, with none of his English contemporaries averaging 40+ until right at the end of his career (Smith, Gooch), I would suggest that his place in the pantheon of great batsmen is assured. And I am yet to see a player I have enjoyed watching to anything like the same degree...

  • on October 4, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    a very fine article this.

  • ivktyr on October 4, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    Gower has always been one of my favourite cricketers ever since I saw him score his first test hundred against New Zealand at the Oval. I was just behind square for the left hander and the thing that struck me most at the time was how hard the ball hit the barrier in front of me when Gower played the pull. He may have looked like he was caressing the ball but when he timed the ball it flew

  • khanc on October 4, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    Forget Gower, what a fricking brilliant poem that is.

  • ShriiK on October 4, 2012, 11:51 GMT

    Nice one...reinstates why 'Gower' is still a reference point for elegance, discipline & class!

  • on October 4, 2012, 11:29 GMT

    He is my hero, and always will be! Check out Wisden Cricketer Mag, February 2009 for my letter! Gower signed my copy!

  • harshthakor on October 4, 2012, 11:18 GMT

    In terms of pure natural ability or talent only Rohan Kanhai,Don Bradman,Victor Trumper,and Viv Richards were ahead of Gower.In terms of pure elegance Gower would just be edged by Zaheer Abbas and Vishwanath.For pure talent Gower was the most talented left-hander of all with Brian Lara.Overall amongst left handers his inconsistency and casual approach prevented him from averaging above 50 runs.Overall,Sobers,Pollock,Lara,Border,Harvey,Lloyd and Hayden would be rated above David Gower.Significantly Dennis Lillee rates Gower the 3rd best batsman he has bowled to,behind Viv Richards and Gary Sobers and ahead of Bary Richards,Graeme Pollock and Greg Chappell.

  • harshthakor on October 4, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    Overall to me David Gower was amongst the 5 most elegant batsman of all who literally caressed the ball with a silken touch.He posessed the grace of a pianist in his batting .He would simply touch the ball and it would race to the boundary.A brilliant player of pace bowling as he displayed in West Indies at Kingston in 1981 when scoring 154 not out.He was also prolific on bouncy Australian tracks against top pace as well as seaming tracks at home in England.At his best when aggregating 732 runs in a home Ashes series in 1985. Gower was the most elegant left-hander of all and in pure natural ability on par with Brian Lara and ahead of Gary Sobers and Graeme Pollock.With Denis Compton he is the most stylish English batsman of all.Overall to me he joins Zaheer Abbas,Vishwanath,Compton and Lara in the race for the most stylish batsmen ever.

    Gower hardly did justice to his talent but for which he would have joined the pantheon of great batsmen like Viv Richards.

  • warnerbasher on October 4, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    As an Aussie I loved the batting of Lord Gower. Beautifully graceful. His languid back foot drives were artistry. The summer of 82/83 was his zenith in a badly beaten side. Still the greatest artistry I have ever seen was KJ Hughes on boxing day in 198O against the might of the Windies. His batting between 50 - 100 was the finest batting I have ever seen. Then DK Lillee reduced the Windies to 4-11 before stumps. Stunning cricket .

  • Big_Chikka on October 4, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    yep, languid is an accurate a description as you can get. as for stylish, yes in a very "english" way. but honestly , one should not cannot compare clarke, martyn, vvs, m waugh, lara, ponting, tendulkar, hookes, lehmann, de villiers, g chappell to gower. just enjoy the footage.

  • DesPlatt on October 4, 2012, 10:37 GMT

    Good comments Meety and Ian Percy; Jonesy2 way wide of the mark . I would have to add Barry Richards if we are talking stylish. Sadly, I never saw Gower score many in the flesh ; only a Sunday League 50. My late father , however,saw both him and Robin Smith defeat Lancashire in a B & H match at Old Trafford ( not the televised match in Hampshire which effectively ended David Hughes's rein as Lancs captain). He said it contrasted their styles typically ; my father was moved to write an article on it in which he said " Smith won the match of the match but the Gods had already made their own awards". Smith more the pugnacious Lehmann style.

    David Gower himself once said " It's hard work making batting look easy"

  • on October 4, 2012, 9:51 GMT

    agree with all this, hard to find much footage on youtube, so need to rely on those memories

  • on October 4, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    Nicholas Saunders: the reason David Gower's career ended so prematurely was that Graham Gooch was captain of England. Gooch was all about practice and hard work and couldn't relate to players who were simply naturally talented. To Gower, net sessions were voluntary, to Gooch they were a necessity. Gooch was a strict disciplinarian, and Gower was never going to fit in in his narrow-minded world. The Tiger Moth incident on the 1991 Ashes tour didn't help either...

    It is very ironic, and sad, that Gooch ended Gower's career, after Gower saved Gooch's career. On the 1986 tour of the West Indies, Gooch was hounded because of his links to South Africa (he captained the rebel English tour to SA and played for Western Province for a few years). One of the tests has its venue changed, if I recall, because the local government refused to allow Gooch to play there. Gooch was about to pack it in but Gower convinced him to carry on.

  • cricketloverw12 on October 4, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    I have never been allowed to forget that I watched the bare-headed Gower pull Liaqat Ali for 4 from his first ball in Test cricket (E V P, Edgbaston 1978), while my friend was buying the ice creams! Arlott, I heard later that day, was commentating and described the moment as 'welcome to the new Prince of Cricket'. A genius, and for some, the most intelligent, concise and self-deprecating of the talking heads now on the box.

  • o-bomb on October 4, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    The '85 Ashes series was the first summer of cricket I remember (I was 7) and I remember being totally spellbound by Gower's batting. This article has put the beauty of his batting into words. Thanks Ed.

  • Mebs19 on October 4, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    The late Peter Roebuck once stated that @Watching Gower bat was like driving through a country lane in the Tuscan countryside at dusk in an sports convertible with the top down, a beauty queen next to you and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne in a ice bucket on the rear seat'

    I don't think there has been a better description of Gower's batting than this .

  • njr1330 on October 4, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    Many years ago, as a student, I fancied myself as a bowler. I attended the London University nets, and was told, 'Go and bowl at that blonde lad in net no.3'. The blonde lad caned me to all parts, and I have never felt so humiliated. That is, until I learned that the Blonde lad in Net 3, was D.I. Gower of University College Law faculty! ... he left at the end of his 1st year, to play county cricket.

  • on October 4, 2012, 8:57 GMT

    Are you Australian by any chance Jonesy2? ;) Chappell, Clarkes, Martin and Lehmann I would never mention as being languid and stylish - and much as I liked Hookes, he was correct, upright and stylish but nothing like Gower. Better is a different question to stylish...

  • rovar on October 4, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    Only englishman along with KP I adore. Teriffic terrific batsman. A magician with bat.

  • srjepson on October 4, 2012, 8:45 GMT

    Yes he could cover drive, most left handers can but i loved that pivot pull he played.

  • Hyderabadi_Nawab on October 4, 2012, 8:34 GMT

    1986, India vs England and Gower cover drives Maninder - this is etched in my memory, It was so lazily played and yet the ball sped to the boundary. Gower truly a sight for sore eyes!

  • ygkd on October 4, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    Those of us of a mature(-ish) age, who would love to have seen Victor Trumper, Archie Jackson and bats of that ilk, can console ourselves somewhat to have seen David Gower.

  • on October 4, 2012, 8:11 GMT

    The most stylish batsman ever. You could watch him all day. He also averaged 53 in his last 2 years of test cricket, playing Aus/Ind/Pakistan no less. How he didn't play another couple of years I'll never know.

  • jonesy2 on October 4, 2012, 8:01 GMT

    Meety-- rubbish. clarke, martyn, VVS, m waugh, lara, ponting, tendulkar, hookes, lehmann, de villiers, g chappell all more stylish and obviously far better than gower

  • on October 4, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    a left handed cover drive on a rising off stump delivery in the evening session vs NZ at lords off hadlee in 1978 was the single most elegant shot i have ever seen . i can still see it clearly today . Can also still see that dismissal just before lunch Ashes 90/91 .

  • on October 4, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    GOWER is Class personified

  • davidlister on October 4, 2012, 7:41 GMT

    Looking back from an era that strangely and dispiritingly combines both an ugly licentiousness and a kind of neo-puritanism, it is possible to view Gower as a late flickering of the flame of hedonism, to set alongside the likes of Peter Cook, Jeffrey Barnard, Keith Floyd even, believers all in the pleasure of pleasure, in the joy of the moment's having precedence over the careful honing of career-path.

  • Nutcutlet on October 4, 2012, 7:36 GMT

    Stylists, where there is minimum effort for maximum effect are very thin on the ground, possibly not more than one or two in a generation. The equivalent of Gower in another age (in this instance, the Edwardian) must have been RH Spooner (Lancs & England, b 1880). This is what that fine writer Denzil Batchelor says about him: 'He made forward play look as easy and delightful as swallowing a syllabub. He didn't punch his drives: he leant WITH them like a dancer in some exquisitely contrived figure; and the ball floated away to the boundary.' His test record is unremarkable & he never played in Australia, but he must count among the greats, not for his figures (such grubby things!) but for pure elegance and for that priceless & very rare commodity that so few sportsmen ever deliver: joy, deep, gravity-defying joy. Good article, Ed. Thanks.

  • on October 4, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    When I was young and unaware of the technicalities of cricket, Gower was my favorite cricketer with his full sleeves, charming face and disarming smile. He remained so even after I learned more about details the various shots people play. Thanks for a lovely article about him.

  • ramesh231165 on October 4, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    David Gower till date happens to be the most stylish batsman ever played cricket. i am an indian still loved to watch him play even at the expense of india losing the match. There can never be a player moellowre stylish than this f

  • slipfielder on October 4, 2012, 4:59 GMT

    I first saw a picture of him in a magazine playing the pull shot with a mop of golden curly hair. The picture mesmerized me. The caption said "Is he the Golden Boy of English Cricket?". Indeed he did turn out to be golden. I have never before or after seen anyone cover drive like Gower. Lara came close but there was an element of aggression in Lara's cover drive, Gower's was pure silk. You would wonder how the ball beat the fielder and how he generated so much power from a caress. It was the first time I heard the word "caress" used to describe a cricket shot. He could play other shots as well. Just ask TA Sekhar who at one point in time was the fastest bowler in India. I remember his first ball was sent sailing over his head to the pavilion for a six and we were aghast at the audacity of the shot. Now even in his time as a commentator you can see the elegance he brings and a certain very Englishness to the proceedings. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

  • Meety on October 4, 2012, 4:55 GMT

    Top article. Gowers is in my top 3 stylish batsmen - along with Mark Waugh & VVS.

  • on October 4, 2012, 4:38 GMT

    Loved it. Scintillating. Damn you 25 characters.

  • S.h.a.d.a.b on October 4, 2012, 4:07 GMT

    I was fortunate to see his 1985 inngs in early 1990s. I always heard from my father about Gower's elegance and beautiful shots. He is one of my fav cricketers.

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 4, 2012, 3:21 GMT

    David Gower intimated, languidly, that effort is not good, it is undesirable. It seems, desire, is undesirable, being so.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 4, 2012, 3:21 GMT

    David Gower intimated, languidly, that effort is not good, it is undesirable. It seems, desire, is undesirable, being so.

  • S.h.a.d.a.b on October 4, 2012, 4:07 GMT

    I was fortunate to see his 1985 inngs in early 1990s. I always heard from my father about Gower's elegance and beautiful shots. He is one of my fav cricketers.

  • on October 4, 2012, 4:38 GMT

    Loved it. Scintillating. Damn you 25 characters.

  • Meety on October 4, 2012, 4:55 GMT

    Top article. Gowers is in my top 3 stylish batsmen - along with Mark Waugh & VVS.

  • slipfielder on October 4, 2012, 4:59 GMT

    I first saw a picture of him in a magazine playing the pull shot with a mop of golden curly hair. The picture mesmerized me. The caption said "Is he the Golden Boy of English Cricket?". Indeed he did turn out to be golden. I have never before or after seen anyone cover drive like Gower. Lara came close but there was an element of aggression in Lara's cover drive, Gower's was pure silk. You would wonder how the ball beat the fielder and how he generated so much power from a caress. It was the first time I heard the word "caress" used to describe a cricket shot. He could play other shots as well. Just ask TA Sekhar who at one point in time was the fastest bowler in India. I remember his first ball was sent sailing over his head to the pavilion for a six and we were aghast at the audacity of the shot. Now even in his time as a commentator you can see the elegance he brings and a certain very Englishness to the proceedings. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

  • ramesh231165 on October 4, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    David Gower till date happens to be the most stylish batsman ever played cricket. i am an indian still loved to watch him play even at the expense of india losing the match. There can never be a player moellowre stylish than this f

  • on October 4, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    When I was young and unaware of the technicalities of cricket, Gower was my favorite cricketer with his full sleeves, charming face and disarming smile. He remained so even after I learned more about details the various shots people play. Thanks for a lovely article about him.

  • Nutcutlet on October 4, 2012, 7:36 GMT

    Stylists, where there is minimum effort for maximum effect are very thin on the ground, possibly not more than one or two in a generation. The equivalent of Gower in another age (in this instance, the Edwardian) must have been RH Spooner (Lancs & England, b 1880). This is what that fine writer Denzil Batchelor says about him: 'He made forward play look as easy and delightful as swallowing a syllabub. He didn't punch his drives: he leant WITH them like a dancer in some exquisitely contrived figure; and the ball floated away to the boundary.' His test record is unremarkable & he never played in Australia, but he must count among the greats, not for his figures (such grubby things!) but for pure elegance and for that priceless & very rare commodity that so few sportsmen ever deliver: joy, deep, gravity-defying joy. Good article, Ed. Thanks.

  • davidlister on October 4, 2012, 7:41 GMT

    Looking back from an era that strangely and dispiritingly combines both an ugly licentiousness and a kind of neo-puritanism, it is possible to view Gower as a late flickering of the flame of hedonism, to set alongside the likes of Peter Cook, Jeffrey Barnard, Keith Floyd even, believers all in the pleasure of pleasure, in the joy of the moment's having precedence over the careful honing of career-path.

  • on October 4, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    GOWER is Class personified