David Gower Biography
David Gower never seemed to take himself and his phenomenal gifts too seriously. It often made the English cricketing establishment totter dangerously on the brink of apoplexy, turning Graham Gooch crimson around his Zapata moustache.
The image of Gower remained that of a supremely gifted batsman who more often than not threw away his wicket after some exquisitely timed strokes that echoed with the sound of genius and untold promise. The press labelled him ‘laidback’. Frances Edmonds wrote that it was difficult to be more laid back without being comatose. This in turn made even the blithe spirit behind the sublime left-handed grace frown in annoyance. Gower hated this term that seemed to trivialise his contributions. After all, he was the greatest English batsman of his generation — even taking into account the late flowering of the workmanlike willow of Gooch.
From the time he scored an unbeaten 98 against Australia at Sydney in 1979-80, even Dennis Lillee, that most competitive and nasty of fast bowlers, always had immense professional admiration for him. Gower led England in one of the rare victorious tours of India in 1984-85, and a triumphant Ashes campaign in 1985 plundering over 700 runs in the 3-1 victory. One wonders if these could be achievements of a happy go lucky reveller who did not play the game hard enough to justify a place in the side.
Gower’s batting was always fun, style and excellence. And as his records show, they did bear as many — and often far more — positives as the grumpiest of stonewallers to blot the landscape of the game.
And when he did flow, it made cricket the noble sport one revelled in soaking up while sitting in the sun. Henry Blofeld was not the greatest admirer of the maestro, but a typical Gower hundred had him in ruptures of delight, crooning “If Shakespeare had seen the innings, he would have written a sonnet on it.”
Like the greatest of performing arts, when the gifted artist was on stage it seemed the easiest of things in the world. The underlying grind that produced it often escaped notice, and led to that sneering denunciation of ‘laid back.’ It was nothing of that sort. Gower was one of the very best in business.
Finally, after a sequence of omissions that surprised one and all, the guillotine that had been hovering above his blonde curls finally came slamming down and his career was cut off forever. It is quite astounding that during the eighties and early nineties, a period when English cricket was wallowing in the muck of indignity, a player of David Gower’s calibre could be dropped multiple times. Not even the most gifted for the Mother Country — even considering the many South Africans recruited shamelessly — had a fraction of his gifts, consistency and record.
But by then Gower had established himself as one of the all-time greats, with 8,231 runs at 44.25.