An email conversation with David Gower: 'The IPL end Tests? You must be off your rocker'
Relishing resumption of five-day game; Passing judgement on the Black Caps; Being 'Bothamed' and living to tell tale
Monday 05 May 2008
You're covering England's forthcoming series with New Zealand for Sky Sports. What will happen in the Tests? England should be clear favourites, having rediscovered the winning habit in the nick of time in New Zealand, whereas the visitors will be reliant on the usual few. England should be thinking in terms of a clean sweep, but who knows what the weather gods have in store?
England turned the series around in New Zealand – do you think they have rediscovered the art of winning, and where did it go? They lost the knack when they lost in Pakistan straight after the 2005 Ashes; they took a big knock with the next Ashes whitewash and have seen a greater turnover of personnel than might have been expected. They will only really know if they are a good enough team again if they can beat South Africa this summer.
Who is England's key player and who owes coach Peter Moores runs or wickets? They all do. The England XI has a very good look on paper. The aspiration must be to get back to the 2005 formula, especially with the bowling. Whenever Andrew Flintoff is ready to resume his Test career his return will bolster the bowling. If we have to wait for that either Matthew Hoggard gets a go instead of James Anderson or the latter has to work out how to achieve greater consistency.
Name your top six for the first Test. Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood.
And New Zealand's danger men? Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, Chris Martin, Kyle Mills, Brendon McCullum.
Are there any young players that should have the England side looking over their shoulders? You don't have to be 21 to have a chance. Rob Key is a fine player and is doing everything right to press a claim if a batting spot becomes vacant. Nor is he the only one in the queue, which should, on previous tour selections, have Owais Shah at the front.
Does the IPL spell the end of Test cricket and should England's players be allowed a crack at it next year? What? Six weeks razzle-dazzle enough to consign over a hundred years of Test cricket to the dump? You must be off your rocker. Twenty20 is here to stay and will energise the game around the world, but players, however grateful for IPL and, in the future, EPL cash, still know that they will be judged by their record as Test players. The ECB might well make some concessions to their contracted players re the IPL, but a lot depends on how plans for an EPL develop. Until those are clear we need to hold fire.
Would you have enjoyed playing Twenty20? As a young man, yes. As a senior player my appetite for 40-over cricket diminished because I got bored with the demands of run rates. The more satisfying challenge was adapting one's scoring rate according to the need to set up winning positions in Test matches.
How good are South Africa at the moment? Very good. Graeme Smith has become one of the most respected captains of this era. His team is on the up and the only weak link is that I don't think they have a world-class spinner.
Why has England's bowling gone backwards since 2005? Partly injury, partly attitude. In 2005 the attack had reached a peak of ability and harmony. The four or five men needed dovetailed neatly and there were precious few times when Australia's batsmen could relax. Hardly ever since then has that been the case.
Is being England cricket captain the hardest job in sport? It's a great job when things are going well but I'd much rather be England captain through thick and thin than be a boxer or a marathon runner.
Do England's batsmen ever tap you up for advice when you are on tour? No. I would like to think we are on friendly terms but I would not wish to encroach on their space. If a chance comes up to talk cricket over a proper bottle of wine, I am more than willing.
What was your best hundred during your career? There are two I look back on fondly; 154 not out against the West Indies at Sabina Park in 1981, my only hundred against that all-powerful attack, and 157 at The Oval to help set up the victory that finished off the Australians in 1985 to regain the Ashes.
You like a bit of banter with Sir Ian Botham in the commentary box. Do you have to give him more respect since his knighthood? We know him too well! We still have to treat his capacity for fine wine with immense respect!
If you could choose four cricketers to share your commentary box, who would they be? W G Grace, who as one of the highest-paid cricketers of all time (as an amateur) in effect took his own team around the globe and would have derided the piffling sums paid by the IPL. Keith Miller. Graeme Pollock. Richie Benaud.
And if you could choose four people from any other walk of life, who would they be? Sir Tim Rice. Terry Pratchett. Sir David Attenborough. Sir Isaac Newton. We need someone to have a scientific view on why the ball is or isn't swinging.
If you could cover one other sporting event, what would it be? Ice hockey. I know very little about it and have been to only one match, USA v Czechoslovakia in Calgary in the 1987 winter Olympics. The atmosphere was just brilliant. I did not care a jot who won but loved every minute.
Why blue socks and not white? I never wore white – no one does in cricket. The old grey marl socks were fine and I still wore a pair underneath the blue, which were a patriotic gesture and a little bit of fun. Peter May, as chairman of selectors at the time, was not a fan. He once very politely asked me "Are those socks blue?" to which the only obvious reply was: "Er, yes, chairman."
Who was the best bowler you faced? Malcolm Marshall, Dennis Lillee. Take your pick. Both were supreme craftsmen with a ball and quick with it. Both were also bloody good blokes.
How did you feel about Prince William's recent flying antics? Can't fault him. His equipment is a bit too modern for me – you can't beat the old Tiger Moth for real flying – but I like his spirit!
Some of your peers have been playing beach cricket Down Under. Would it interest you? The second word is "off".
With cricket becoming a tad more professional since your day, can David Boon's record of drinking 52 cans of beer on the flight to England ever be beaten? I don't know what you mean! Anyway, who cares? I remember being "Bothamed" on a flight to Australia once, when he was on a Bloody Mary kick and forcing jugs of the stuff on all and sundry whenever he woke up. The results were far from pretty. Red drink = red eyes.
David Gower is presenting Sky Sports' exclusively live and high definition coverage of England v New Zealand, beginning next week
*Born David Ivon Gower, 1 April 1957, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
Test debut June 1978 v Pakistan. Final Test Aug 1992 v Pakistan. Statistics: 117 Tests, 8,231 runs at 44.25. Played a record 119 consecutive innings without being dismissed for a duck.
One-day debut May 1978, v Pakistan. Last ODI Feb 1991, v New Zealand. Statistics: 114 ODIs, 3,170 runs at 30.77.
*In retirement: They Think It's All Over, 1995-2003. Gower's Cricket Monthly, 1995-98. Currently: Sky commentator.
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