There were times when the effortless David Gower only seemed to caress the ball at the crease, but it would speed to the fence. During his K. S. Narayanan Oration here on Saturday, the Englishman was often light-hearted with his words but his points came across forcefully.
In a speech laced with humour and anecdotes but with depth and context, Gower held the audience spell-bound at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at an event to celebrate the Sanmar family’s 50-year association with the Jolly Rovers Cricket Club.
Talking about ‘Lessons from the Cricket Field,’ Gower dwelt on captaincy and leadership. He said, “Give each and every member of the team responsibility, create the right atmosphere and get everyone involved during team meetings and on the field. Trust is very important.”
Naming Mike Brearley and Raymond Illingworth as captains who made a huge impact on him, Gower said his contemporary Mike Gatting got the mix right as captain during a triumphant Ashes campaign down under in the mid-80s because he got the balance of “treating the senior, middling and junior players, absolutely right.”
At the other end of the spectrum was Graham Gooch who was too rigid and regimental as captain and leader.
He also said a captain had to be himself and observed Alastair Cook could not impress as captain early in his tenure because he tried to be like Andrew Strauss. It was only when he developed his own methods that Cook became successful.
Then, in a question-answer session with former India opener Aakash Chopra on ‘Whither Cricket’, Gower felt that for Test cricket to survive and be followed by the next generation, top cricketers such as Virat Kohli would have to speak about the virtues of the five-day format and champion its cause.
The former England batsman cited crowded schedules with only a minimum amount of practice games as the primary reason for visiting teams not performing well overseas. “The visiting sides just don’t get enough preparation.”
Gower also said the lack of “resilience and the inability to see through time,” in several present-day teams was leading to so many “collapses happening.”
Although, there could be contrary views on the umpire’s call vis a vis marginal decisions, he said DRS was essentially good for the game.
The big three factor
Asked about the ‘domination of the big three’, Gower said the ICC had to ensure funds were more evenly distributed so that there is development of cricket all around. “You have to get the poorer schools up with the best,” he said and added the ICC was moving in the right direction under Shashank Manohar.
On the scourge of match and spot-fixing, Gower said the penalties had to be severe.
KP easily manipulated
Asked whether England should have handled the gifted but temperamental Kevin Pietersen differently to get the best out of him, Gower said, “Brearley or Illingworth would have caught (Pietersen) by the neck early and straightened him. Outstanding talent no doubt, but he could be easily manipulated.”
Earlier, V. Sriram, columnist and historian, spoke about the stellar qualities of the late, K. S. Narayanan, former chairman emeritus, Sanmar group.
Gower had the last say when he stressed cricketers ought to seek enjoyment from the game and play for ‘fun, style and excellence.’