Of good intentions & different interpretations

Kevin Pietersen.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

All the Players are Gentlemen and all the Gentlemen are Players was a saying much in vogue 50 years ago when England and India met at Lord’s each season. It was meant to indicate that all men are equal, particularly when they play the game. By Ted Corbett.

Cricket is a kindly game where lords, ladies and gentlemen mix readily with us ordinary folk, shake our hands when we meet and wish us God speed when we part.

The better off don’t care if you are as rich as they are or as poor as their gardener and they will accept your wish for them to bowl quicker or field more smartly or use a straighter bat if you are captain.

Some are strangely curious about which Varsity you misspent your youth within or which school your parents paid for you to attend but still on important occasions they seek your friendship and share your hardships.

All the Players are Gentlemen and all the Gentlemen are Players was a saying much in vogue 50 years ago when England and India met at Lord’s each season. It was meant to indicate that all men are equal, particularly when they play the game.

Within those good intentions lie different interpretations of the Laws of the Game and, as you will see, the way men should behave. (Women are now recognised as never before, the captain of England women is one of the most successful leaders in history and special toilet facilities are available at most grounds. I have never been quite sure if this gender equalisation is seen as a permanent arrangement or a temporary lapse but perhaps we must wait a while before passing judgement.)

It was all summed up for me in a snapshot which Sky TV provided for us stay-at-home enthusiasts on the third day of the second Test shortly after Kevin Pietersen had played one of Test cricket’s most memorable innings.

In the back of the players’ balcony you could just make out KP, relaxed in training gear when out of the shadows strode Graham Gooch, the England batsman with the highest aggregate of runs, a long-serving captain, a son of Essex (now probably the most influential county) and batting coach under Andy Flower.

Gooch held out his hand in a gesture of congratulations but he did not tarry to make small talk. Instead he hurried off and disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.

Nasser Hussain, the best of the British TV commentators and also a Gooch protege and an Essex graduate, said that handshake showed how highly Gooch thought of the innings KP had just played. “These two men do not like one another,” he said and went on to praise Pietersen’s belligerent innings lavishly.

Those of you with almost as many years on your back as I have will remember that David Gower, in his middle 30s but by no means a liability, was left out of the tour team to India in 1992-3. It was, I have heard so often I believe it to be true, Gooch’s determination that made sure Gower did not tour.

Gooch could not stand Gower’s attitude which seemed to indicate “it will be all right on the night” even though he had only made lackadaisical appearances at nets. He is not one of Nature’s training freaks; the expression “I’m off to the gym for a couple of hours” rarely passes his lips and his house is not littered with training gear.

The Indian batsmen fared very badly against the English spinners, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, in Mumbai.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Now he is beyond his half century but still the waist can be seen, he walks with the ease that might be a temptation to any recruitment officer for Strictly Come Dancing and — for all his white hair — he might easily pass for a man in his early 30. Don’t ask how.

I have been taxed with this question ever since I first met the man and have never found an answer.

Nor have a dozen or so of his close companions — or why would some of them ask me — who have been known to share a lavish meal and a bottle of wine with this man made wealthy by TV and newspapers since his playing career ended. On Ian Botham you can guess where his good times have ended. Gower appears to carry not an ounce of surplus flesh and is, if that easy laugh is anything to go by, as fit and healthy as any man of half his age can expect.

To stay as fit and alert as he is — pretty good for his age I’d say — Gooch has to sweat and toil and jog and run and sweat again. Perhaps the easy-going Gower persona got to him; certainly his increasing inconsistencies did.

The final blow was a wild swing in Adelaide when Gower was out last ball before lunch. Gooch was batting as steadfastly as ever at the other end and my guess is that there were no pleasantries at lunch or for a long time afterwards.

If the two are reconciled — and I believe they are — it is in itself a credit to the spirit of cricket and its tradition of all of us getting along together no matter what our background.

Frankly, I think too much is made of this throw-back to the 19th century. All men and women are different, sometimes they have disputes and sometimes those last a lifetime.

It would be a boring old world if we all got along together with hardly a word of dispute as indeed it would be if the favourites won every match.

I was not going to mention the switch of fortune, nor the superb innings by good old KP — always a favourite — nor yet how badly the Indian batsmen played Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.

It did make for an interesting Test though, didn’t it?