David Gower knows all about the perils of falling out with your captain during an Ashes tour.

After getting out in a warm-up match in Queensland in 1991, and with play still going on, Gower went for a joy ride in a Tiger Moth biplane. The tour management of Peter Lush, Micky Stewart and captain Graham Gooch were so incensed Gower was nearly sent home.

“The Tiger Moth was a light bulb moment: instinctive, inoffensive fun and it was even more fun to reprise it this winter. But, in the management style of that era, which was communist, it did not gel. I paid the fine [£1,000] and tried to move on. But, whatever the management thought of me, it did not p**s off the rest of the team.”

The reference to not “p**sing off” his team-mates is pointed. Ever since Kevin Pietersen’s sacking following the winter’s Ashes debacle, it has been suggested this was due to a breakdown in his relationship with the team.

Gower says: “Two years ago, Alastair Cook welcomed Kevin back into the fold for India, a bold move given what had gone before, but it worked. Between them, they turned the series around from 1-0 to win. Now the same captain isn’t prepared to save his man. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that something must have happened.”

What is no mystery for Gower is Pietersen’s ability. “Kevin has done things I never contemplated — switch hitting Murali over point for six, that’s just extraordinary.” This is generous from one of England’s finest batsmen who, during a 14-year Test career, scored 8,231 runs, averaging 44.25.

For all the batsman’s ability, Gower wishes the 33-year-old had learned from his great friend Shane Warne. “Warnie has no inhibitions, Kevin is more contrived,” says the Sky presenter. “He spends too much time thinking what he should be saying instead of having that Warne-like natural gift which is just being himself and getting on with it.”

After two decades as a television presenter, Gower has worked out how to marshal his fellow commentators, all of them high-profile ex-Test players with very varied personalities.

Hijinks: David Gower and the infamous Tiger Moth incident

“David [Lloyd] is the comedian,” says Gower. “The rest of us have to play Ernie Wise to his Eric Morecombe. If we have a quiet session, especially at the end of the day, we say, ‘Bumble, step up and entertain’. What makes him credible is when it comes to something serious he is passionate about the game.”

Passion is also something both Ian Botham and Nasser Hussain have. “Ian can be very populist. Beefy has moaned as a player and pundit for 30 years. When Nasser was captain, Ian was a big critic. So, when Nasser joined our commentary team, Ian was bridling a bit, ‘What do we want him for?’ He made life quite hard for Nasser. Nasser is very impulsive but he is also very determined and not stupid. Quite quickly, Nasser was able to turn Ian around.

“Ian will look at certain aspects of Nasser’s life and say he doesn’t want to be Nasser. But they respect each other because of the way Nasser fought his corner doggedly. There is a lot about Nasser which is very impressive.”

As for Michael Atherton, Gower says: “He is probably as bright as we have, a very clear thinker. When Michael is in the studio with me, I’m likely to get a question thrust back at me as soon I ask him a question. He has thought about something quite precisely before we start.”

Yet it is Michael Holding for whom Gower exudes the most affection. The Jamaican was part of the great West Indies teams which beat Gower’s England 5-0 in successive home and away series in the 1980s.

Now, to have Holding on the set is undiluted pleasure. “Mikey has three things going for me — a great fast bowler, one of the great voices and he is the most honest man you will ever meet.

“When things come up which reflect the slightly darker underside of the game, Michael is your moral arbiter.”

It was Holding who alerted the Sky team to spot-fixing during the 2010 Lord’s Test against Pakistan.

“When Mohammad Amir bowled the no-ball a foot-and-a-half away I did not have a suspicion. Then Mikey went ‘whoa’. I looked at him and could see he was thinking there is something not right here. Off air, he said there is something wrong here, then you think, ‘Oh, you’re right’.”

Amir and team-mates Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt had deliberately agreed to bowl no-balls for money and were later convicted at a criminal trial.

However, this expose was made by the written media. So, why has television not done more to expose this scourge? “We can’t make the big pronouncements which will pre-empt a court, ICC or ECB decision,” says Gower. “We can get as far as to say that looks suspicious.”

What Gower insists his fellow commentators are willing to do is criticise players. The 57-year-old former England captain says: “When they do interviews at the end of the day, both Nasser and Atherton are very good at getting straight to the nub of the question, no shying away from issues.”

But Gower feels an ex-player turned commentator should “remember all the things you did wrong as a player. Being critical for the sake of it is wrong”.

This was the lesson he learned from Richie Benaud when Gower started on Australia’s Channel 9 during the 1992 World Cup. “Richie had a simple way of looking at things; engage brain before you speak.”

Sky Sports’ international cricket is part of an unrivalled summer of sport including rugby, Formula One, Majors golf and US Open tennis


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