The Cricketer
Huw Turbervill Huw Turbervill


The Googly: Follow Huw on Twitter @huwzat

Are you a cavalier or roundhead? Or should that be, would you like to smooch with Gooch, or celebrate Gower power?

One of cricket’s most famous feuds was revisited on separate evenings as Graham Gooch and David Gower were guests of The Cricketer. In their inimitable ways, both entertained an audience of several hundred.

Gooch was forthright and passionate, Gower suave and wryly amusing. Gooch was brilliant discussing Kevin Pietersen on the 2013/14 Ashes tour; Gower interesting when mentioning how he fell out of love with the one-day game, and how Test cricket could be saved.

To be fair, when asked about their falling out, which came to a head in Australia in 1990/91, both gave an impression of somebody who had been asked the same question a million times and – 26 years later – were rather keen to clip it out of the park, never to be discussed again.

Both stressed that they got on fine now, and that it is their fans who will not let it go – although Gower – as perhaps you would expect – was more convincing when he said he was genuinely laidback about the whole brouhaha these days. He would even go up in the Tiger Moth all over again – je ne regrette rien, as Norman Lamont (and Edith Piaf) famously said.

Gower referenced the Ian Botham v Ian Chappell enmity. That famously started with – allegedly – Chappelli indulging in some Pom bashing during the 1977 Centenary Test… Beefy telling him to shut it, Chappelli refusing, Beefy biffing him. “Our nearest and dearest supporters have this image of an ongoing feud going on to rival the Ians – now that is a feud!” said Gower.

The other famous flashpoint came before the Tiger Moth affair, when Gower was caught off the last ball before lunch at Adelaide in the fourth Test. “Australia set David up for this, leg-stump half-volley, for the pick-up… [it was] an instinctive shot,” said Gooch. “But as a class operator, maybe he [Gower] could have negated that. Craig McDermott was a class bowler, and he had me caught and bowled a few times, with low full-tosses on purpose.”

That made me wonder why McDermott setting up Gooch was any different than him setting up Gower… but that is not to exonerate the latter, and rewatching the Channel 9 commentary from the incident is revealing – and excruciating/amusing in equal measure. He played a flashy shot earlier in the over, prompting Tony Greig to say: “I don’t think David would even be aware lunch is due.” Then to the last ball: “He’s going to be out – last before lunch – would you believe it? What do you think Bill?” BILL LAWRY: “It’s ridiculous. Terrible cricket from a fine player.”

Gower told me he was not feeling well that morning, however, and we all have bad days at work, don’t we?

The mid-to-late 1980s/early 90s were a period of criminal underachievement for the England team, however, considering the talents they had – Botham, Gower, Gooch, Allan Lamb, Mike Gatting, John Emburey, Phil Edmonds et al – (although they lacked great quicks – possibly Graham Dilley worth a mention). Gooch not only wanted to achieve his potential, he also wanted the team to do it too. There had not been much to cheer about with the exception of winning in India (1984/85) and at home to Australia (1985, both under Gower); and in Australia (1986/87) under Gatting (he is recalled as a fine England captain, but do not forget he won only won two Tests). England had been a laughing stock against West Indies. Gooch restored pride, made England battle-hardened with extra nets, running, and less boozing – plus investment from businessman Patrick Whittingdale. Gower and Botham seemed to demand different treatment. Tracksuit mania was not for them. Lamb seemed to skirt the divide. Was giving the duo special treatment, in the light of their genius, fair on the other nine members of the side, though?

“I went on my first tour in 1978/79 and we got on well,” said Gower. “Graham changed from having a happy-go-lucky Essex attitude. They had the greatest clowns in county cricket. They blended fun and playing hard. But Graham realised he could do better, so he upped his training. Give him due credit. He made a stack of runs. Different people need different environments, though. I said to him I’ve played international cricket for 12, 13 years; by and large I’d done pretty well, and this is how I do it. I cannot do what he wanted me to do. Part of my in-built character is to portray that air of casualness. We had conversations on that tour and we kind of disagreed. I wanted to make it work, but I wanted to do it my way. So he said at the end, if you want to play for England again, prove how much you need it, how much you want it. Cue the worst season ever for Hampshire. We both look back and thing we could have done better between ourselves. We have both softened our attitudes and we get on fine now.”

On Gooch’s part, a few weeks earlier, he said: “I played most of my career with David; most of the time we got on well. He was a great player, never disruptive. He played numerous brilliant innings. He had his own way of practising. What he gave you was when he took guard. We get on all right now, [but] we’re not close.”

Gower admitted he found it difficult to empathise with the less talented, but it was interesting to see how he led – successfully – in India in 1984/85. “My abiding principle was that I wanted to give everyone in my team a sense of responsibility for what they did,” he said. “Graeme Fowler enjoyed the tour and did really well. Up until then he had been treated like an errant schoolboy. I got people involved in meetings, made them active, and encouraged them. Graham scored a double-hundred in Madras. It is easier when you have natural synergy with somebody, but yes, I tried to empathise and encourage everyone.”

I will give the final word to Simon Barnes, who wrote a sublime article about Gower in our April edition. I thought his observation – “it’s always a delight to tease the humourless, but never forget they’ll hold every joke against you” – was extraordinarily profound. Was it a direct reference to Gooch, I asked?

“The line you quote is emphatically a generalisation,” he told me. “It was left there so that readers could apply to Gooch if they wanted to. I’ve always liked Gooch as well as admired him. It’s a fact that all high-achievers in sport have a combination of talent and grit – but often in radically different proportions. The error of the Gooch/Micky Stewart era is that grit is superior to talent. Also, they never realised that grittiness is easy for the gritty, just as talent is easy for talented.”