David Ivon Gower
April 01, 1957, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Stoat, Lubo, Lu
Left hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
Top order Batter
King's School, Canterbury; University College, London
David Gower, the fluffy-haired, ethereal-looking young man who pulled his first ball in Test cricket for four in 1978 was to be England's most consistent and consistently exasperating batter of the 1980s. Other batters go in and out of form: Gower always seemed to play the same - beautifully, until the moment he made a mistake. Sometimes the mistake was put off long enough for him to play an innings of unforgettable brilliance.
Gower was a left-hander with a strong top hand and his strokes had a liquid, graceful feel: in an era of biffers, he was a caresser. When he edged a catch, he would be damned as irresponsible, but with his style, the difference between an exquisite stroke and a nick was little more than an inch. He could dig down when required, batting over six and a half hours for an unbeaten 154 to save the 1981 Jamaica Test, "having given only one chance in a massive piece of concentration", according to Wisden.
His character appeared as uncomplicated as his cricket, but his devil-may-care mien hid some complexities, even perhaps an inner loneliness. Lazy journalists called him "laid-back" but you don't score 8231 Test runs without a cladding of steel. And, as captain, his apparent insouciance hid a genuine belief that England should pick the best players and let them get on with it. This worked against the Australians in the 1985 Ashes - in which he was unstoppable with the bat, scoring 732 runs at an average of 81 - but was disastrous the following winter in the West Indies and even more so when Gower regained the captaincy for the 1989 Ashes series. He was out of tune with Graham Gooch's tote-that-barge regime that followed and county cricket bored him, so he retired prematurely into a career as a TV personality so successful that his cricket seemed mere preparation.
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