Cricket / Innings Closed: Exit a flawed genius and a prince among players: David Gower's retirement marks the end of a champagne era for cricket. Martin Johnson sums up a remarkable career

The scent of next spring's first cut of grass has already lost some of its appeal, and even the crocuses may emerge wearing black armbands. First Ian Botham, then Vivian Richards, and now David Gower. It is one of cricket's nastier hat-tricks, and the passing of a champagne era is no less palatable for the modern game's cheerless vision of house plonk.

There will be no more meetings of the 'Gower for England' club, and it is the simple fact that this particular body would latterly have had more rewarding dialogue with the Speaking Clock than the England selectors that finally prompted Gower to call it a day. Well, that and a dollop of money not unadjacent to pounds 65,000 a year to report cricket for a Sunday newspaper. Let's hope they are not too stringent on deadlines.

It is as much as Gower can do to decide which pair of socks to pull on in the morning, so little wonder it took him the best part of two months to make a decision in this case. He had asked Hampshire if he could be late back for the new season in order to fulfil his winter commitments in the West Indies with Sky television, and Hampshire quite properly declined to make him a special case.

Had they done so, Gower might possibly have gone on for another season on the off chance of touring Australia next winter, but he must have realised that there was more likelihood of him colliding with a pig on his next Tiger Moth flight. Also, the birth of his first child, Alexandra, in September, would also have had a bearing on his switch to the press box. He can now spend the winter criticising people for airy-fairy wafts outside the off stump, and turn up to net practice with a deckchair and knotted handkerchief.

However, it is unarguably sad that we will never again see him bat in a serious game of cricket. His first ball in Test cricket was pulled majestically for four, and his last - against a seriously faster Pakistani bowler in Waqar Younis - rearranged his stumps. In between times there were strokes that made you despair, and strokes that were the stuff of poetry.

He was easily the best loved English cricketer of his generation, and possibly the best loved ever. Why this should be the case, not even he can tell you, but it may not be unconnected to the Englishman's innate suspicion of perfection (if Boycott had been a bit more frivolous, they might have loved him as well) plus his almost total lack of ego.

If Boycott chiselled out a six-hour hundred, it would not even occur to him that someone might have stopped purring and dropped off to sleep instead, whereas if Gower creamed one in three hours (probably having been dropped in the gully a couple of times), he would invariably register a nice line in self-effacement.

Above all, Gower played his cricket for enjoyment, and he had long since lost all motivation for those three-sweater days at Derby when there was no prospect of a Test match or two some time during the summer. As such, if he has a favourite memory, it is likely to be something other than a Test century, or leading England to the Ashes.

More probably a bizarre Sunday afternoon at Cheltenham, when both Leicestershire and Gloucestershire were so utterly convinced that a deluge had removed any prospect of play that the players spent a convivial afternoon in the sponsor's tent.

However, when the umpires popped their heads around the flap to announce (amid much horrified gurgling in mid- Pimm's) a 10-over slog, Gower's immediate task as captain was to appoint someone who was sober enough to recognise a head from a tail to conduct the toss.

After much playing and missing, flying divots, and one memorable moment when Gower dived totally the wrong way in the covers, Leicestershire walked off - or, to be more accurate, staggered off - victorious.

The laid-back side of his character (although he has the occasional volcanic burst of temper) is well enough known, and for some years he was known on the circuit as 'Fender'. This was around the time of the appalling Australian TV production of Bodyline (when Larwood kept getting people out stumped) and Percy Fender was portrayed as a gin- swigging, ukulele-playing, monocled buffoon.

Gower was a good bit more serious than that, but in all truth, he was, at best, an ordinary Test captain, and in almost every area a poor county captain, who was not passionate enough about the game at domestic level either to harmonise or inspire a dressing- room. When Leicestershire appointed him for a second term it was as potty a decision as they have made, and probably had more to do with a vain attempt to keep him at Grace Road - for his charismatic, sponsorship-selling properties as much as his runs.

Gower was liked by everyone in cricket, although the closer his friends got to him in business terms, the harder some of them found it to tolerate his apparent excess of ennui. This applied latterly to Mark Nicholas, the Hampshire captain, and in a more costly way with Graham Gooch as captain of England.

No one admired Gower more as a player than Gooch, but he had already formed a none too complimentary view about his commitment when, from the non-striker's end in the 1991 Adelaide Test, he watched Gower fall into a trap so telegrammed that the ball was almost delivered by registered post. After that Gooch never wavered from his view that Gower was a luxury item on tour, not conducive to team discipline, which is why he did not pick him for India after Gower's class performances in two of the final three Tests of that summer.

Gower's response to that, well documented in his autobiography, was along the lines of the England team being run like a schoolgirl crocodile, and to some extent this is a view that finds some sympathy with the new captain, Michael Atherton. However, England are now down the road of younger blood, and sadly, there is no place for Gower any longer.

Rarely did Gower not do things in style. When his Leicestershire captain, Ray Illingworth, gave him a bollocking over his appearance, Gower turned up for breakfast in the team hotel wearing a dinner suit. He has spent his winters on the Cresta run, on big game reserves, and reporting his hire car lost at the bottom of a Swiss lake. He has also taken his holidays during cricket matches, when, quite apart from buzzing the ground in a Tiger Moth, he had to be talked out of dropping water bombs on Lamb and Smith from the cockpit.

When he started his career, he was a shy lad who liked an occasional glass of cheap wine. When he finished, he was an extrovert imbiber of vintage champagne. However, the reason he will always be loved, as well as admired, is because (8,500 Test runs notwithstanding) he has as few airs and graces now as he did then.

----------------------------------------------------------------- GOWER FACT FILE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Born: Tunbridge Wells, Kent, 1 April 1957. Championship debut: (1975 for Leicester shire v Lancashire at Blackpool). Maiden century: 1976 (102 not out v Mid dlesex at Lord's). Test debut: 1978 (v Pakistan at Edgbaston - hit first ball for four). Maiden Test century: 1978 (111 v New Zea land at The Oval). FIRST-CLASS RECORD Matches played: 448. Centuries: 53 (highest score 228 for Leices tershire v Glamorgan at Leicester, 1989). Runs: 26,339. Average: 40.08. TEST RECORD Matches played: 117 (32 as captain). Centuries: 18 (highest score 215 v Australia at Birmingham, 1985). Runs: 8,231. Average: 44.25. ONE-DAY INTERNATIONALS Matches played: 114. Centuries: 7 (highest score 158 v New Zea land at Brisbane, 1983). Runs: 3,170. Average: 30.77. -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photographs omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines