Judging by the number of autobiographies currently being published, Christmas must be just around the corner. From Sir David Jason to Johnny Vegas via Morrissey, the nation’s stores are full of words about famous peoples’ life-journies. There is a fair share of cricketers doing their bit to contribute to deforestation by releasing memoirs too, some of which we chose to read on our recent holiday. We got some strange looks reading a book with David Gower on the front cover whilst sitting in a dark corner of a Lloret Del Mar nightclub, but that’s the sheer dedication we go to.
As Gower has years of experience in the media, including writing columns for the Sunday Times, it is a bit disappointing to find this book was co-written with Simon Wilde. But that’s maybe because we find Wilde a tad smug and annoying in his day job. This isn’t Gower’s first autobiography – we read one years ago that came out around the time of his retirement. But it’s a story worth retelling and one that will probably enable Gower to buy a few more bottles for his wine cellar.
A couple of years ago we summarised our thoughts on Gower here. This book does little to change our minds, in fact it accentuates the points. Gower himself mentions that he feels he was a bit of an amateur (in terms of attitude rather than ability) and this is alluded to in the book’s title, a play on words based on Gower’s love of African wildlife and that there are few modern players of his ilk. Considering his outlook on life, it is interesting to find out one of his ancestors – an Erasmus Gower – circumnavigated the globe and was governor of Newfoundland, something that we’d all like to be able to boast about.
The book is not without merit. The photo of Gower’s wedding, for example, suggests it would have been one hell of a shindig. Although many of the anecdotes are familiar (crashing a car on a frozen lake, getting pissed with Ian Botham, the Tiger Moth incident, getting drunk with Ian Botham, etc.), the one about Botham eating a birthday cake made from elephant poo was a new one to us; it makes a change from shit coming out of his mouth anyway. It was also amusing to read of Gower being dismissed LBW to an actual orange.
When it actually moves from the off-field antics to the cricket, it is fairly interesting. He acknowledges that he had a varied career and one not as consistent as his record and fame would suggest and he describes several times low-points where he was out of form. It was eye-opening that at the time of his Test debut, he averaged only 27 in first-class cricket. Whereas some autobiographies descend into repetitive chapters about matches and tours that blur into one, Gower flits through the years quite quickly – perhaps too quickly in respect of his early career and the fabled ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll’ tour of New Zealand. We really want to know what Bob Willis was doing with a rocking chair – apparently it was “delightful and imaginative.”
Throughout the book, the constant theme is of the divide between two different types of player. Gower seems begrudging in acknowledging Graham Gooch’s prowess and repeatedly describes impasses between the dedicated, hard-practicing Gooch (and Mickey Stewart) compared with the laid-back and raffish nature of himself and his party buddies. Perhaps the only thing even more frequent than Gower disparaging Gooch is Gower mentioning Botham. It is nice to be reminded that in the 1980s the England captain skipped a (voluntary) net session in the West Indies to go windsurfing, but eye-opening to realise quite how much drinking (and other ‘recreational’ activities) went on. And Gower also alludes to being a womaniser, meaning the reader has a lot of sympathy for his partner of ten years whom he eventually left for his wife-to-be.
As for the media years, understandably there aren’t many juicy stories told. He praises most of his Sky colleagues and despite the book being almost 300 pages, Gower still has to retell the story of David Lloyd’s box getting smashed by Jeff Thomson. Seriously, everyone. Let’s leave that particular anecdote alone now please.