Cricket legend David Gower reveals a lifetime’s passion for sport and wildlife ahead of Norwich visit

WLT patron David Gower represented WLT during the Emeralds for Elephants auction in India. While he was out in India he also spent time in Ranthambore.
Credit: WTI WLT patron David Gower represented WLT during the Emeralds for Elephants auction in India. While he was out in India he also spent time in Ranthambore. Credit: WTI

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
9:42 AM

Best known as a former England cricket captain David Gower has also had a lifelong passion for wildlife. Reporter David Bale talked to him ahead of his visit to Norwich tomorrow night, when he will be promoting the World Land Trust and reflecting on a lifetime’s passion for sport and wildlife at Blackfriars Hall.

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Norwich visit

David Gower and Friends is one in a series of events hosted by World Land Trust’s patrons and high profile supporters in 2014 to celebrate the trust’s 25th anniversary.

The event is at Blackfriars Hall in Norwich tomorrow from 7pm. Tickets £25 (£45 to include champagne reception). To book email info@worldlandtrust.org with the subject line David Gower & Friends.

David Gower will be joined on stage by sports writer and nature journalist Simon Barnes and Bill Oddie, both of whom are WLT Council members.

It was quite a surreal experience chatting to David Gower on the phone. I was due to speak to him at 10.30am and in the minutes before I was watching him on Sky Sports hosting crocket coverage ahead of the start of the England versus India one-day series.

One minute he was talking to Nasser Hussain in the commentary box, the next minute he had taken a break from broadcasting and was talking to me on the phone. It did not seem to faze him at all - ‘That’s the way it is’, he said.

But it seemed strange to me.

Talking to David Gower was quite exciting for me, anyway, as he’s been a hero of mine ever since I can remember. He was one of the most stylish of English batsmen, and I also liked his laid-back, devil-may-care attitude on the field.

Sky Sport presenter and former England Test captain David Gower (left) with Rolling Stone Sir Mick Jagger, during the first day of the 2nd Test at the Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad, Friday 19th March, 2004. PA Photo: Rebecca NadenSky Sport presenter and former England Test captain David Gower (left) with Rolling Stone Sir Mick Jagger, during the first day of the 2nd Test at the Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad, Friday 19th March, 2004. PA Photo: Rebecca Naden

I may have been apprehensive but he was quick to put me at ease and after chatting for about 15 minutes, it seemed like we were old pals.

On the TV he can sometimes comes across as a bit aloof. His co-commentators have dubbed him Lord Gower, because of his privileged background. In his defence, as the host of Sky’s cricket coverage, he has to keep it all together. His job is really to get the other commentators to open up.

On the phone he was very friendly and easy to talk to you.

Until he was six, his family lived in Africa where he developed a lifelong interest in wildlife.

David Gower relaxing in his garden.David Gower relaxing in his garden.

Tomorrow night, at Blackfriars Hlal in Norwich, he will be joined on stage by sports writer and nature journalist Simon Barnes and Bill Oddie, both of whom are World Land Trust council members.

He said: “I’m looking forward to visiting Norwich. Simon Barnes is a brilliant writer. I’ve never met Bill Oddie, so I’m looking forward to that; he’s a good egg.”

Asked what he would say to Mr Oddie, ‘Hello, I’m David’, could be a good start,” he said.

While tomorrow night’s visit was uppermost in his mind, he was also happy to talk about his days as the blond-haired pin-up of English cricket.

He remembered playing cricket for Leicestershire against Norfolk at the old Colman’s ground in Norwich. And he was effusive in his description of Norfolk’s very own cricketing legend, Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld.

“I’ve known him for years and he’s great fun to be with.”

He said he was fitting in tomorrow’s visit to Norwich between England v India matches.

He’s probably best known now for his TV work for Sky.

The Sky Sports commentary team includes Nasser Hussain, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, and Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham, among others.

He said Beefy and him went way back.

He said: “We have a bit of fun. The idea is to enjoy what you are doing, so hopefully the people watching will enjoy it too. We are all very different characters. We go to Bumble for gritty north-west humour.

“It’s great to have my mate Botham with him. I’ve known him for far too long. And Mike Atherton is the most cerebral among us, and Nasser lends another perspective. And Andrew Strauss brings another perspective.”

Cricket fans know that things change very rapidly in the sport. Earlier in the season England cricket captain Alastair Cook was struggling for form and England were up against it. But after a comfortable 3-1 Test series victory over India, things are looking rosier.

But, about a week after our chat, it’s turned around again, after England lost two one-dayers to India.

I asked him if India had lost interest in the Test series, but he said: “I prefer to give England credit. I would never say that a nation had lost interest in a Test match. When I was with England in the ‘80s we were often on the wrong end of it. While you are trying your best, it feel sometimes that you are up against an irresistible force.”

He said his best year as an England batsman was ‘85 when he led England to an Ashes win and scored a huge number of runs.

But he said he would be lying if he did not admit to a few regrets in his career.

“There are all sorts of things I would have done differently,” he said.

Other English cricketers overtaking his runs haul as an England batsman does not concern him.

“Trust me, I don’t lose sleep over it,” he said. “I have had a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment out of the game. I started playing county cricket at 18, which is nearly 40 years ago. I’ve been a broadcaster nearly 20 years. It’s great fun and long may it continue.”

He said the biggest change in cricket since his day was T-20 - “It’s a different ball game,” he said.

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