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When Gower printed an ‘I’m in charge’ t-shirt to make captaincy statement

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

David Gower, the former England captain, has spoken of the time he made a statement about his captaincy by printing an ‘I’m in charge’ t-shirt for himself and ‘I’m not’ t-shirts for the rest of the squad.

Gower’s captaincy was hanging by a thread ahead of India’s visit in 1986, with England heading into the series having been swept by West Indies 5-0 in the Caribbean. Gower, speaking in The Cricket Podcast, said there were doubts about the system he’d put in place, where every player was encouraged “to think for themselves”.

“Team meetings, I wanted them to be inclusive, not just a lecture from the captain and the management. I wanted people to contribute,” said Gower. “If you’re for instance in … India, for one. If you’re thinking about, ‘How do we operate in India?’ The players against us, Sunil Gavaskar, that sort of stuff. I didn’t want to say, ‘This is how you get Sunil out’. I wanted the bowlers involved to say, ‘OK, I’ve got an idea’. I wanted that process to be live, before the game, during the game, and after the game.

“It’s one of those things I felt very strongly about, giving responsibility to the players to first of all, to be themselves, to think for themselves, and obviously to be part of the team.”

However, following the thrashing at the hands of West Indies, the system, Gower said, led to doubts about what exactly the captain’s role was in the team. “When the system works, it’s great. Three months in the Caribbean, using the same system, if you lose as badly as we did, if it then doesn’t work, the system becomes questionable,” he said.

“By the time I’d finished that tour of West Indies in ’86, there were questions asked by the media, the selectors, ‘Well, who is in charge?’ Because [it seemed] all you’re doing is allowing people to come up and suggest things, even though in your heart you know it’s my decision in the end.

“When we got back to England in 1986 … Peter May gave me a real vote of confidence saying, ‘You have one Test match’. Before that Test match, I had these t-shirts printed where one of them had, ‘I’m in charge’ across the chest, and the other 11 for the rest of the squad said, ‘I’m not’.

“I issued all these t-shirts to players in the afternoon [before the Test], and it worked pretty well, the message was understood, they quite enjoyed it, even the press, they got the joke as it were. It was an attempt to make a light-hearted response to a serious question. The only thing I needed was to win that Test match, which of course didn’t happen [India won the Test by five wickets].

“As we were coming off the balcony at the end of that game with India as winner, Peter had already spoken to Mike Gatting about taking over captaincy. I had the t-shirt, so when I came off from doing all the interviews, I was tapped on the shoulder and told that was it, ‘you’re no longer England captain’.

“So I handed the t-shirt to Mike, and there’s a photograph of me handing it to him. The line I’ve to use, I’m afraid, was: ‘I have every confidence in Mike, but it wouldn’t fit.’”

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