DUBAI // David Gower, who enjoyed one of his many career highlights helping England beat Australia to capture the Ashes in 1981, warned yesterday that there is becoming a danger of cricket's oldest rivals seeing too much of each other. Gower, 53, is a former England captain who represented his country 117 times in Test matches and appeared in 114 one-day internationals. He is worried that the intense ferocity which traditionally marks clashes between the arch enemies will be lost if they meet too often.
Visiting the UAE to play in the Big Five-O charity golf tournament at Dubai Creek tomorrow, Gower spoke last night before the International Cricket Council Twenty20 semi-final between England and Sri Lanka. England triumphed comfortably and Pakistan stand in the way of Australia in their semi-final tonight. He said: "There is a chance that we will play Australia again and we are going to face them in five one-day games in the summer before travelling Down Under to meet them in the next Ashes series at the end of the year.
"That might be overdoing it a bit. The saving grace is that there is still enough underlying animosity between England and Australia to make sure that whenever they meet it is a genuine contest. "But if you play the same people time and time again, you inevitably lose a little something from that contest. We all want that rivalry to remain at its most intense." Gower, a stylish left-hander who scored 8,231 Test runs in a 14-year international career, does not blame the English cricket administrators for milking the cash cow of Australia.
"The Aussies are playing Pakistan in England so it was an understandable move to sign them up for a one-day series," he said. "It is not the strongest of Test summers for England with Bangladesh and a below-strength Pakistan due to visit so this will add a little extra entertainment which is always welcome. "But the Ashes series will be the clear highlight of the year for most of us. I'm eagerly anticipating a closely fought series - much closer than the last time [in Australia in 2006-7] when we went there as holders and were thumped 5-0. Surely that won't happen again."
Gower called time on his own first-class career in 1993, long before the new craze of T20 had even been dreamed of. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Gower welcomes the shortest form of the game into the international fold, providing it is not allowed to run out of control. "I have argued against the likes of Ian Botham that it does have its place at the highest level," said Gower. "But you need to keep a very close eye on how all this is balanced on the overall calendar and the speed of its development.
"I have found the current world championship, and the Indian Premier League before that, extremely entertaining and expect that form of the game to continue entertaining us. "But it all has to be kept in perspective. I was appalled to hear statements coming from players at the IPL making the observation 'this is the finest innings I have ever seen'. That is simply not the case. It's a different form of the game which demands different skills. That's fine but Test cricket will always be the pinnacle.
"If you come out on top in Test cricket you have proved yourself to be the best in the world. We regard [India's] Sachin Tendulkar as the finest player at the moment because of his record in Test cricket. "We applaud him because he is capable of producing special stuff in all formats of the game. You respect him most, though, because of his record as a Test player. The great thing about Test cricket is it is where people are judged.
"The only reason that players are signed up for big bucks to play in the IPL is because they have built up their reputation somewhere else, usually in the Test arena." email@example.com