When putting together commentary teams in cricket, TV and Radio producers often use two people. The idea is that one asks the questions that you or Third Man would ask. “Why is he doing that?” “Why has he got a man over there?” The other member of the commentary team answers these questions for us.
David Gower when leaving cricket to commentate was placed in the role of he who sets up and asks the question. Twenty years later we watch as this great batsman asks Botham this and Lloyd that and Hussein something else.
Actually it is like one of the best consultant surgeons in the country asking a charge nurse why a particular practice is the right one for the patient. She, the consultant, could better answer the question. He, the charge nurse, should on the whole stick to taking direction.
Yet this role that Gower plays in the commentary box is an extension of his cricket-playing image – highly gifted, instinctive, unthinking, smooth performer. You’d have to know Mr Gower really well to figure out why his life strategy has come to be this. It would make a fascinating exercise, but sadly beyond our scope here.
The point is that Gower has a sharp cricketing brain that belies this image and he would be far more interesting to listen to than those he is required to ask questions of, as this (above) lucky ‘visit the Sky Team’ competition winner found on meeting DG.
This was brought home to Third Man when he read a short article by the former England captain and holder of 117 Test caps on Marcus Trescothic published in a 2006 edition of The Wisden Cricketer.
‘(Trescothic’s) technique bears some similarity to mine in terms of economy of movement. It relies on balance. People like to dream that batsmen move a long way forward and long way back but that is not reality.’
And later, ‘The key to playing spin is that you have to have a shot to play. (Trescothic) judges line and length very well. Once you are picking the signs from the bowler you get into position quickly and can play shots against them.’
And, ‘He is stronger at the start of a series than at the end and struggles to sustain his level of performance over a long period of time. I can empathise with that.’
These are not the remarks of an unthinking instinctive cricketer. However much Gower’s batting appeared ‘artless’ (though it was wonderfully artistic to watch) it was based on a fine understanding of a technique that was also well honed.
In another remark Gower had shown that his thinking about cricket is sharp enough to challenge the unquestioned, to cut through the c**p. This was when he sagely pointed out that especially for ‘top handed players’ left handers are actually right handers and vice versa.
The truth and import of that observation is only just coming to the fore as reverse and switch shots begin their probable rise to domination.
In the television studio the questions are being asked by the person who should be answering them. Third Man says, “Ask Gower dot com.”
Tomorrow, events permitting, TM intends to take a look at Gower the batsman.