My Cricketing Hero: Nick Knight picks David Gower
Who did the Sky Sports Cricket pundits idolise growing up? Every Monday, we will be asking one of our experts for their cricketing hero and this week it’s Nick Knight’s turn…
I was a complete cricket nut growing up and just a huge David Gower fan.
As a fellow left-hander; he was an obvious choice. I realised, though, from quite an early age, that being left-handed was likely the only thing we were going to have in common.
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He made batting look so easy. Stylish, elegant, but so uncomplicated also.
He made it look so simple, in fact, that you’d watch and think, ‘I want to have a go at that’. Very different to the complicated style of the likes of Steve Smith, for example, who would be harder to copy.
You’d get his Gray Nicolls Scoop bat, go out in the garden and mimic the way he went about his cricket. Or at least try.
There was this one time where he’d decided he was going to put some white tape on his bat where the blade meets the handle. So I just had to do the same.
I distinctly remember watching him bat and bat in the 1985 Ashes series. Great memories.
You’d wait for 11am to tick over for the start of a Test match; you’d be watching, waiting, hoping England won the toss and wanted to bat, and then while you wouldn’t wish away people’s wickets, you wouldn’t necessarily mind losing a couple early to get Gower in.
I’d lie on the floor in front of the TV and watch all day, for as long as he batted. Then, once he’d get out, I’d get my gear and play up against the wall, start throwing balls – try to play all the shots he’d just played.
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I remember having the privilege of meeting him, at a young age, then watch him play at Lord’s. I can’t remember exactly the game, but I went with my dad.
We were standing outside the Pavilion as David came out to go to his car, and I remember my dad asking him, ‘excuse me, can you sign this for us?’
He came and talked to us for a little bit. When you meet your hero, someone who you’ve been watching for years and years, it was pretty special.
I also played against him once. I’m pretty sure it was for Combined Universities when I was 17, or 18, against Hampshire – right at the end of David’s career.
If memory serves me right, he didn’t get many – I’m not even sure he got double figures – but that was a real ‘wow’ moment.
It was slightly mixed feelings. I’d hoped Gower would get some runs, so I could stand at slip and watch, but he nicked off early. Everybody was celebrating, thinking ‘great, we’ve got Gower out’, except probably for me.
That was the thing, watching Gower: there was always an element of slight frustration – similar to the modern-day fans who watched Ian Bell. He’d whack one through the covers and you’d think, ‘we’re in for the long haul here’ and then suddenly the next ball he’d nick it to slip.
You’d get frustrated watching, thinking, ‘why did he do that?’ Because you’d want to watch more and more of it. You’d never really had enough.
But, then, fast-forward it to your own career and you realise you end up doing the exact same.
In a way, that was the lure of Gower. That was part of what was so great to watch, that you knew at some point it would end, and you just had to enjoy in between.
Another guy that had a similarly simple elegance to his batting – I played against him actually – was Saeed Anwar from Pakistan.
He just stood still and threw his hands at the ball; that ability to time the ball perfectly. It looked so silky.
There was also Brian Lara, who I played with at Warwickshire. I wasn’t there in 1994, when he scored all the big runs, like the 501 against Durham, but I was his vice-captain in 1998.
Playing with him was a great thrill, though he made you feel like he was playing a completely different game! You feel not worthy; all you feel like doing is trying to get a single and get him on strike.
I remember actually one of my lowest moments was running him out. I don’t know what I was doing! I was completely distraught for days and I’m not sure he forgave me for a while.
Brian’s style was quite individual, with this huge back-lift. It was quite rhythmical, so when he was a bit out of rhythm, he’d struggle from time to time.
Sometimes you watch batsmen and you think, ‘crikey, he’s not going to last long here’. I can’t remember many times like that with Gower.
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