Tag Archives: David Gower

Homes Fit for Heroes – A Bank Holiday Bonanza

Third Man is grateful to Chunter for directing him to the photograph of The Botham (above), an apartment on a Persimmon development built on the site of the former Aylestone Road cricket ground in Leicester (see here).

The Botham and the Boycott (below) excited his ever sensitive imagination if not his wanderlust.

The Squire is presently renovating the East Lodge with the help of Miss Pamela Kueber who has described herself in Homes and Obsessions as (and this proved irresistible to His Grace), ‘your mid mod mad guide’

“Just the person we need for the renovation of the East Lodge.  Très Mid Century.”

 “Would that be the Mid-Seventeenth or the Mid-Eighteenth Century, Y’Grace?”

“Enough of your nonsense, TM.  Hold my Leica and let’s take Pam for a spin in the old Type III to trawl up some ideas.”

Published below are images ‘stolen’ on that trip from the homes of mid-century cool cricketers, including one taken in Boycott’s mother’s bathroom where, so to speak, the young Geoffrey cut his teeth and perfected his Backward Attack:

The Parfitt bathroom:

The matching Parfitt bedroom:

A bedroom in The Gower:

The pool  in The Compton:

The Dexter, note the roof styling and use of diamond bricks:

Suitably fastidious and symetrical tiling in the Edrich:

And finally bathroom features in The Boycott where the flamingos prefigure a South African infatuation:

 Plenty in the cabinet to aid the dyspeptic.

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Gower, the Best he’s Watched

Cricket and A Wild Elephant? TM promises you it will all make perfect sense.

Cricinfo is carrying an article by Christian Ryan.  A Touch of Gower describes an eight year old’s reaction to the first Friday of a Test series in Australia, his efforts to ‘skive’ off school, his frustrations at the noise and interference in the family home that morning, the temporary let down of watching Chris Tavare and Geoff Cook opening the England innings and then the unfolding of a Gower innings. 

The memory of that innings stayed with the author through life, but when he came to write the article for The Best I’ve Watched series, Ryan was surprised by the results of his research …

“Yesterday I looked up Scyld Berry’s book from that summer, Train to Julia Creek. Magnificent – but not much cricket in it, and no Gower. I went to the newspaper archives room. No Gower until Wilkins’ 22nd paragraph in the Australian; none in the Herald till the 23rd. McFarline in the Age mentions Gower’s “sensible strokeplay” and Casellas in the West Australian his “enterprise”.  

It seemed almost a begrudging afterthought when Casellas eventually concluded, that these runs were “richly deserved”.

Regrettably the comments for this article have been closed because Third Man would very much like to thank Mr Ryan for sharing this intimate recollection.  We are taken right there with him to his family’s bare living room in Anula, Northern Territory, Australia: broken furniture, no air-conditioning, twin baby sisters wailing, TV on when, “in a blue helmet, no visor or chinstrap, blond curls crushing against his earguards, appeared David Ivon Gower.”

Ryan’s implicit question remains in the air, why was this wonderful batsman so poorly appreciated in his own time?  We know why he should invoke such loyalty among so many, but why did so many of his special innings hardly rate a word, when every ‘failure’ brought down on his head a pile of invective?

Thinking about it over the years Third Man has concluded that, because Gower made batting look easy, it jarred with the belief that sporting achievement has to result from a disciplined work ethic.  We loved to watch Gower but could never forgive him for making us enjoy the guilty pleasure of this illicit ‘unnatural’ bounty from cricket.   Third Man has written about it here.

This kind of thing might have affected Dexter but it did not, not to the same degree.  It affected Gower because Britain had moved out of the Sixties and through the Seventies.  With a growing emphasis on individualism came a greater self-responsibility for doing well.  This found its expression in cricket with the work ethic and training regimes of Mikey Stewart and the utilitarianism of Graham ‘Heavy Bat’ Gooch.   

It was Roundhead against Cavalier and even though the culture of the Eighties became a time of ‘Boli’ and excess, it was excess based on ‘working hard, playing hard’.  Nothing came for free.

Yet Gower’s batting appeared to do just that.  No effort, no work, no practice, no sweat – just indulgence.  That way of life was fine to fantasize about when watching ITV’s sumptious and lethargic portrayal of Brideshead life, but literally unconscionable on the cricket field.    

Lamb and Gower might get into the same scrapes but for one it was considered the natural reaction to a hard innings or a hard tour.  For the other it was the sin of wasted talent.  The very impression of indolence triggered the guilt infused righteousness of the zealot.   

Was it Orwell who said that there was no greater enemy of a wild elephant than a tame elephant? 

It has taken years of gradual change to create the licence for self-expression and a truly bright form of cricket measured by more than just run rate.  Perhaps as we enter an age of austerity we shall once more demand of a our heroes ‘gay abandon’, pleasure without effort and success without limit so that, through them, we may access these heights vicariously.

Then Gatesby will take guard and the wheel will turn further.  But that is going too far into the future, even for Third Man’s Time Machine.

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A Life in Dentristy or A Life in Cricket – You Decide

George Headley was born in Panama in 1909.  He was taken to Jamaica as a Spanish speaking ten year old.  There he fell in love with cricket.  At 15 and still in the then customary short trousers, he saw Earnest Tyldesley make over three hundred runs in a pre-season match. 

It was as if he had learned all he needed to know about batting on that day suggests our old friend C.L.R. James.  (An urgent but unanswerable question arises; did Tyldesley use the Circle Line back lift?)

Destined to go to American to study dentistry George was saved for a future in cricket when he was chosen to play against a visiting English side captained by Lionel Tennyson.  He scored 79 in the first match and 211 in the second.

Two reasons to be thankful George Headley never got to handle a dentist's drill or our first clue that there is something very odd going on with the grip.

Headley played 22 times for the West Indians and often had to carry the rest of the batting.  This led to his nickname;  ‘Atlas’.  He scored 2,190 runs, ten centuries, eight against England, and averaged 60.83.

Aged only thirty, war intervened cruelly in his career surely taking away his best years as a batsman.  By then he had scored 9,532 first class runs.  He added only 391 runs when cricket resumed after the war, finishing with a first class average of 69.86.

Like David Gower,  Headley was light framed and had a well trained eye, quick feet and good timing.

The first shot we see him play in Part One of the ESCN Legends video at Cricinfo is a sumptuous on-drive played on the walk in a manner strikingly reminiscent of Vivian Richards batting forty years later.

(If you have only two minutes to spare, Third Man urges you to watch that one shot rather than to read on here)

The quality of this on drive is even more significant because, on Headley’s first tour to Australia it is said he was ‘worked out’ as an off-side player and the bowlers attacked leg stump with some success.  George went into the nets and fixed the problem so effectively that, by the end of the tour, Clarrie Grimmett  was saying that George was the best leg-side player he’d ever bowled to.

But the comparison Third Man wishes to explore is that between Headley and Bradman’s grip pictured below and their rather circular back lifts.

Aplogies for the blurred photo of George but TM has found it hard to find anything but a very small photograph of his stance. Note the way the bat faces inwards which means that the hands are further around the back of the bat with the thumbs of their bottom hands facing in the same direction as the face.

Now is the time to get that old bat out from under the stairs or the kit bag out of the car and see how you get on holding at bat like these two remarkable batsmen.

And tomorrow, all things permitting, let’s see whether we can work out what it meant for the way they played so well.

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Feast Your Eyes – Form to Fluidity

Even in Arcadia May and Cowdrey exist

Classical batting at its height in May and Cowdrey with their cerebral approach, their clarity of expression, the nobility of their design (disegno) that recalled the craftsmanship and idealised forms of Poussin.

From the Temple – Gower 1980:

And Gower at the height of his powers, the primacy of imagination and intuition – the solution of complex problems with obvious ease like a painting by El Greco.

Molton batting – Gower if he were playing today: the expression of inner necessity.

How Gower Would Bat Today by Wassily Kandinsky

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Gower – A Second Chance?

Yesterday Third Man had a short spell on the batting of David Gower.  Today is the chance to hazard a view on how he would have got on in the cricket of today.

Young Gower in the Dug Out

No one in first class cricket at the time batted remotely like Gower.  He made batting look a ridiculously easy thing to do. 

When you can do things with such lack of difficulty it is hard to learn to judge risk accurately.  It is too easy to get carried away, forcing when you should be defensive, pulling when the length is not right even for you, chasing wider than is wise; too easy to fall in the twenties and thirties.  Yet Gower made 8231 Test match runs at an average of 44.25 with 18 scores over 100.

Nor does anyone today bat remotely like Gower.  There are some interesting light-framed batsmen including Sourav Ganguly, but Ganguly’s psychology is so different to that of Gower that reviewing his cricket cannot possibly provide a clue as to how Gower would now respond.

He grew from English conditions that gave him a palette of the straight batted drive, the pull, the cut and the deflected glance.

But these conditions also favour the more powerfully built who crowd out from the lists the lighter–framed batsmen.  To survive and prosper as Gower did depended on him being simply better than his physically stronger rivals.  He delivered runs, built partnerships, destroyed attacks and entertained more than virtually all those he played with.  He took classical batting on a step.

Today the strong men still make up most of those who play.   They carry to the wicket their heavy bats, keep their scoring shots to a minimum and seek to intimidate.  But these self same batmaking techniques would now provide Gower with a greater range of shots and increased scoring power.

Gower loved a dare and would delight in entertaining himself, his team mates and the crowd with reverses, scoops, deflections and uppercuts.  As a top handed left hander, reversing would make him a bottom handed right hander with plenty of power and the ability to loft.  His special timing skills, speed of movement and acuteness of cricketing vision would enable him to bring them off with his typical sense of effortlessness. 

He would be taller and more muscular now as a child of the Nineteen Eighties.  He’d be doing some gym work, even though relative to his contemporaries he would remain of a lighter build.  But with his special sense of timing he would exploit the third dimension,  having the means and the control to go aerial all the way or to chip the ball over the in-field but short of the boundary catcher.

Gower would be a master at Rock Around the Clock, perfectly equipped to express himself playing different shots to similar balls as the moment took him. 

He would certainly relish a central contract to release him from the drudgery of county cricket.  He would find an ECB identikit ill-fitting and their favoured ethic would cause some of the old difficulties to reveal themselves, but a-typical mould breaking characters such as Pietersen and Morgan are valued and tolerated now because  there is a better understanding of the role that innovation can play. 

So would this 2010 Gower appeal to the selectors?  In a way the answer will come when they make their decisions on the Test claims of Lumb and Kieswetter and especially Morgan.  Will they be pigeon holed and their verve and attack written off for five day cricket?

And how would the crowd and the media treat him?  Would he be built up in order to be struck down?  All too likely.  Would he be the lightning rod for the English’s contrasting delight at seeing someone play so effortlessly and their intolerance of perceived failure?  Again, all too likely.

All this is nonsense, of course.  We cannot have him now.  But we do have Pietersen and we do have Morgan, Lumb, Kieswetter and others.  None resemble Gower even closely except that each in their need to express themselves on the field of cricket recall the Master.  Like Gower, they need space, time, encouragement, applause and unconditional support if they are to give of their best. 

With them we have our second chance.

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Ask Gower Dot Com

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.

An image of what is behind the image. What's he said?

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.

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