Cricket: Hampshire lose out as Gower retires: Tributes flow from Fletcher and Gooch as player trades his bat for a media career

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THINGS just will not seem the same at Southampton next season following the announcement that David Gower is finally packing away that flashing blade and calling time on cricket. Which is bad news for Hampshire, who had hoped that the left-hander would still be around to see out his contract and put spectators on seats until the end of the summer.

But Hampshire's chief executive, Tony Baker, said yesterday: 'David is a flair player and if he did not feel right mentally about carrying on then we wouldn't have got the best from him next season.' Gower is 36 and will now be pursuing a media career, which is ironic when you consider that the media have done nothing but pursue him for years. Even last summer, the Gower Test recall button was still being firmly pushed in some quarters.

The player knew, though, that once he failed to make the England party for this winter's tour of the West Indies his chances of adding to 117 caps and 8,231 Test runs were virtually nil. Youthful promise rather than proven ability was seen as the way forward in the Caribbean and so yesterday the tributes came flowing in.

Keith Fletcher, England's manager, said: 'I know it sounds ironic given what has happened during my time as manager but I hadn't written off David as an England player. I feel sad about his decision and in some ways feel responsible.'

Graham Gooch, England's former captain, described Gower as 'my biggest failure of man-management' in his autobiography. Yesterday, though, he said: 'David has always been a great ambassador for the sport. As a player, he brought the crowds in. My abiding memory of him will be that innings of 157 against Australia at The Oval in 1985 when we took the Ashes under his captaincy.'

To close, Gower said: 'It's been a very hard decision to make, but there were times last season when I thought 'what am I doing here?' I didn't want to come to a decision as soon as the England party was selected for the West Indies and I gave myself time to ponder and see how I felt. The past few weeks have been enough to help make up my mind.'

Martin Johnson, page 32

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