Saturday 25 February 2023

Guest Review: Gower: The Autobiography By David Gower

From the moment he hooked his first ball in Test cricket to the boundary, David Gower has been in a class of his own when it comes to style and panache. In 114 Test matches, he scored over 8000 runs at an average of 44 which ranks him with the post-war greats. His elegant play is always a joy to watch and certainly there hasn't been a better and more entertaining left-hander since Sir Garfield Sobers. Yet because of his natural gifts, he has often attracted criticism for his "laid back" approach and "lack of application". In the book, Gower answers these charges and sets out his side of the story about his two spells of captaincy for both club and country. He puts his man-management record on the line alongside those of fellow captains Mike Brearley, Bob Willis, Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch, and attacks the current mentality of Test selectors "where runs around the block seem to count for more than runs in the middle". There are also many light-hearted moments in the book: visiting casinos and nightclubs in the company of fellow "rogues" Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, dumping a hired car at the bottom of a lake in St Moritz, and "buzzing" Robin Smith from a Tiger Moth while he was batting on the 1991/92 Australian tour.

Review: David Gower was a cricketer who played in 117 Test Matches for England between 1978 and 1992. He also captained the side on 32 occasions. Following his retirement from playing, he turned to television commentating and writing columns for newspapers. This autobiography, written with the assistance of the journalist Martin Johnson, was published in 1992. It therefore does not include the last part of his playing career, although there is a brief reference to his recall to the England team in July 1992.

Often described as an elegant and stylish left-handed batsman, he made batting look easy when things were going well. However, he also had his detractors who often described his style as languid, and were infuriated when he got out to what appeared to be a casual stroke. His record stands up well to scrutiny, however, and he scored the fifth highest aggregate of runs in Test Matches for England players. He also had a sense of humour and adventure, that led to his being involved in a number of scrapes. Amongst those described in the book is the time when, after receiving a lecture from his captain on the appropriate dress code when staying in hotels during away matches, he turned up for breakfast wearing a dinner suit. Probably the most infamous incident occurred when he took a joyride in a biplane from an aerodrome adjacent to the ground where the England team were playing against a state side in Australia, and persuaded the pilot to “buzz” the ground whilst play was in progress.

These, and other incidents, together with details of his playing career and the many characters he played with and against are described in the book, which is sprinkled liberally throughout with his wry sense of humour. I enjoyed reading it, despite the fact that it is now out of date. I would recommend it to all cricket lovers.

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