Gower has strug­gled to live up to cliches in TV role

Ashes will sig­nal end after flu­ency with bat de­serted former Eng­land cap­tain on Sky, writes Alan Ty­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Final Whistle -

Quite the most stylish and mad­den­ing shop I have known was a place called 155 Clerken­well, on the Far­ring­don Road in Lon­don. It was a vast, two-floor premises whose rent must have been eye-wa­ter­ing and it was run, one could only sur­mise, by some­one with deep pock­ets and an artist’s soul.

In its all-too-brief pomp it sold, or at least of­fered for sale, im­pos­si­bly beau­ti­ful fur­ni­ture for five-fig­ure sums, and also be­spoke men’s tai­lor­ing, women’s cou­ture, schmancy homeware, jew­ellery and jazz LP records.

It had a restau­rant, which served ex­cel­lent food at such good value one won­dered if chef might have dropped the cal­cu­la­tor in the lob­ster

bisque, and there was also a cocktail bar, a per­fumery, a spa and, when it lat­terly got very over­ripe, a hand­made bi­cy­cle-build­ing caper. The over­all sense was of a sunny gen­tle­man am­a­teurism, a retail op­er­a­tion too rar­efied ac­tu­ally to retail much, a glo­ri­ous folly too airy for this cold, cruel world.

It was in there that I met David Gower. English cricket’s most beloved boy of sum­mer was work­ing, although not of course in the sense of labour­ing, with this es­tab­lish­ment for some sort of fine wine of­fer­ing, which, like ev­ery­thing else in the place, was de­light­ful and quite ob­vi­ously had gos­samerthin chances of com­mer­cial suc­cess.

Star-struck by the man who had been my first sport­ing idol, I asked him some leaden ques­tions about how the crick­eter’s lot had changed over the years, and how things were go­ing at Sky Sports, which will not be re­new­ing his con­tract after 20 years as its cricket an­chor, although he did not know that then.

How should tele­vi­sion view­ers take the news of his im­mi­nent Sky depar­ture after this Ashes se­ries?

When writ­ing about Gower, it is a sports jour­nal­ism by-law that ad­jec­tives such as laid-back, in­sou­ciant, grace­ful etc must be lib­er­ally ap­plied, but his broad­cast­ing has not always chimed with these cliches. It would be a mis­read­ing of his on-screen work to judge him an ef­fort­less nat­u­ral broad­caster. His anal­y­sis, as con­veyed to the viewer any­way, is a shovel through the leg side rather than a flick of the wrists through point: not in the same league as Mike Ather­ton, Nasser Hussain or the newer gen­er­a­tion such as Ku­mar San­gakkara or Ricky Ponting.

As a host, he has only rarely ap­peared to rel­ish the challenge of get­ting the best out of the guests in the way that Ian Ward no­tably does. In chat mode, he can be more waspish and sar­donic than the im­age of the fluffy-haired charmer strolling through the rose gar­den of post-play­ing life would sug­gest.

Last week, Ir­ish pun­dit Kyle Mc­callan’s open­ing lunchtime re­mark after Eng­land were bowled out for 85 at Lord’s was sim­ply: “Pinch me!” Gower replied, “I might give you a smack,” which reads fine on pa­per but was tonally off, yet not un­usual for a broad­caster whose touch deserts him more often than his fans would like.

It has all seemed less fric­tion­less than he, and his many devo­tees, could have thought it ought to be, and what on the cricket pitch seemed to be devil-may-care has trans­lated through the tele­vi­sion cam­era to be “who cares?” As a player, he was harder and stressed more than he liked to let on, he has said since. You cannot score a 403-ball 154 not out at Kingston against an at­tack of Hold­ing, Mar­shall, Croft and Garner with­out be­ing a tough bug­ger.

And there has been a stub­born­ness in Gower the TV fig­ure, seem­ingly un­bend­ing in his ap­proach dur­ing all that time on Sky. Per­haps he has that only-child un­com­fort­able­ness at muck­ing in and rub­bing along, it may also be that lofty, very English sin­gu­lar­ity where be­ing seen to take things se­ri­ously at all is con­sid­ered gauche, for the lit­tle people.

When I asked Gower about his pas­sion for wine, he de­murred and said: “I wouldn’t call wine a pas­sion, that would be over­stat­ing it. I would rather be called a gifted am­a­teur.” Sky, which is both pas­sion­ate and pro­fes­sional, has called time, and off he will float.

His anal­y­sis is not in the same league as Ather­ton and Hussain or the newer pun­dits

March­ing or­ders: David Gower will leave Sky Sports after 20 years as its cricket an­chor

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