Book review: An Endangered Species by David Gower

England

While Strauss has been doing his best to replay the last calls of his international career, another articulate former captain has put out an interesting tome on his time as player and captain.

Andrew Strauss has been doing the rounds to promote his shiny new book, although it probably doesn't need any extra PR given the events of last summer that culminated in his resignation. Perhaps he might actually thank Kevin Pietersen one day for advance sales.

While Strauss has been doing his best to replay the last calls of his international career, another articulate former captain has put out an interesting tome on his time as player and captain.

David Gower did not have the success that Strauss enjoyed in the head role, although he possesses a superior personal record. Gower's international days were played out in a galaxy far away from the modern concept of Team England.

He particularly centres on his relationship with Graham Gooch, whose rather stiff and authoritarian regime was anathema to the adventurous left-hander's spirit. Gower bites back at the image of him as a casual stroke maker who would just as easily edge to slip than drive. The idea that he didn't care was an easy one to pin, given his general demeanour. It was a defence mechanism more than anything else.

One of the chapters is entitled 'You Know You Are Not Going to India, Don't You', which sums up the complete withdrawal on a promise made a few weeks before by Gooch. To his credit, the author wonders if he could have tried a bit harder to find some middle ground with the all-out work ethic approach engendered by the management.

Clearly, like Ian Botham, Gower does not appreciate the automated approach when it appears to drain the lifeblood out of personalities. At the same time, his was an era where Botham's barbeques could leave most hammered halfway through a Test match.

Gower admits: "On a bad day I was 80 per cent amateur and on a good day 80 per cent professional." He fought hard with a low boredom threshold and this had an impact on his counties especially, where he would find it increasingly hard to get engaged for domestic cricket.

Mark Nicholas, his ex-captain at Hampshire became agitated at an approach that would sometimes materialise into a last minute arrival. The admittance that "I behaved like a complete ****hole" is evidence enough of a weakness there.

The title of the book reflects his love of wildlife and a diversity that was shaped by early experiences in East Africa. The world view of someone who enjoys the red wine, the odd night out with Lamb and Botham and the natural world was a useful balance against the increasing stresses of the day job. However, as Mark Waugh found out, such gifted and graceful individuals appear to have less margin for error.

It is a shame that the ground-breaking series win in India in 1985 – only just repeated 28 years later – is rather distorted by three huge beatings from the West Indies (twice) and Australia.

Those 14 losses in three series do nothing for his captaincy record, but generally Gower thrived against Australia as he reminds us here with the 1985 victory in which he scored 722 runs.

<i>An Endangered Species</i> is a refreshing and honest portrait of a talent that would not always bow to the ways of the world but still managed to shine with a disarming charm. He could teach KP a thing or two.

DAVID GOWER: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES (Simon and Schuster £18.99)

<b>Tim Ellis</b>

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