Ask any England cricket fan in his fifties to name his favourite batsman and chances are he will say David Gower. (Unless he says Geoffrey Boycott: the cavaliers and roundheads tend to divide along these lines.) In 114 Tests between 1978 and 1992, Gower’s elegance, timing and grace bewitched us all, not least because we knew that he would probably steer something innocuous to second slip two balls before tea.
His latest autobiography, An Endangered Species (Simon & Schuster, £18.99), reveals the vast fluctuations of confidence suffered at the crease by this most apparently nonchalant of characters, who now spends his days fronting Sky Sports coverage and clearly looking forward to a splendid meal a bit later on. We thought he didn’t care when he was out, whereas he was essentially a shy man who preferred to keep his feelings to himself.
This is not, however, the story of a life racked by torment or the need to settle scores. Only very occasionally does this amiable, unflappable man see the red mist. Once, when they were commentating together, Boycott irritated him so much that after he left the room, Gower took his panama hat off its perch and jumped up and down on it until he felt better. We also discover that Gary Lineker calls Gower ‘Dregsy’, because of his ‘alleged habit of polishing off other people’s brandy at the end of the evening’. You can’t help liking someone who would admit that — unless you’re a Boycott fan, of course.
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