Last week I did a charity gig for World Land Trust. David Gower was the star; Bill Oddie and I mostly asked the questioned. It was a good mix: Bill wanted to know why cricketers have such silly nicknames and what they actually ate during the lunch interval; I wanted to know how David played that flick-pull shot when he moved the bat through an arc of, say, 30 degrees and the ball went to the boundary as if fired from a gun.
He walked us through the shot with a bat we happened to have handy, and to my amazement, it involved a little nudge at the precise moment of contact. Remember that ball’s going a good 80+mph. In other words, there is a greater mystery in the explanation than the question: how could anybody see and move so precisely? No one ever quite matched David in that department.
He was a wonderful cricketer who exasperated more prosaic souls. People believed that the fact that he wasn’t even better was some kind of moral failing. Me, I’m more inclined to believe that David was precisely – but precisely as good as it was in his power to be. That is, among the best, and perhaps the sweetest timer of a cricket ball the world has ever seen and disbelieved.
He didn’t duck or shirk a single question in the course of the evening, and yet the mystery surrounding the man himself was never quite solved. I have known David for years, always liked him, always got on with him. We share a love of the wild world, and especially of Africa; he’s a patron of World Land Trust, Bill and I are council members. I have watched him in triumph and in despair. I have spoken to him on many occasions with the interviewer’s professional cheek.
And still I find him in the end quite unknowable.