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When Ian Botham walked out to bat – without a bat!

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Former England batsman and captain David Gower joined regulars Yas Rana and Phil Walker on the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast.

Reminiscing on his remarkable life in the game, Gower looked back on one of the funnier tales of his time as a player, involving Ian Botham, his former teammate and later colleague at Sky Sports.

On the 1986/87 tour of Australia, after the second day of a first-class match with Western Australia came to a premature close due to rain, the pair visited Britain’s White Crusader yachting crew, who were in Fremantle ahead of the America’s Cup.

“We got invited down for dinner at their headquarters in Fremantle, so it was the usual suspects: Botham, Gower and [Allan] Lamb,” Gower said. “We had a most fantastic night, the hospitality was excellent, the food was brilliant, the company was great, the wine was plentiful. We left Fremantle at about two o’clock in the morning. I think Ian and Lamby had decided they hadn’t had enough at that stage and were still thirsty so they entered a couple of minibars, whereas I’d had plenty so I went straight to bed.

“So, the morning comes, and one of the things Ian refuses to acknowledge is a hangover. So he will always hide a hangover as best he can, but the story basically goes: he spent the entire morning before the game starts plumbing his head into a basin of ice water, with the physio overseeing it, and when it came to his turn to bat we sent him out, waiting to see how far he would get without the bat. You know how he walked out – with the arms swinging, the bat would transfer from hand to the other, and he would swing the arms and make himself look bigger and better with every stride he took. And he carried on doing this, and he got all the way out there.

Wisden Cricket Weekly · A delightful hour with David Gower

“The WA guys had all heard the story from the night before – everyone within 50 miles of Perth had heard the story about the night before – so they all greeted him at the crease and said, ‘G’day mate, how are you?’ And he said, ‘Never better, never better, feel great, fantastic’. ‘Have you forgotten anything?’ He looks down at his hands – no bat! So that’s how the story goes, and I’ll tell it as often as need be.’

When Botham did eventually find himself with a bat in his hands, he used it pretty well, hitting 48 from just 38 balls having arrived at the crease with England 69-6.

“When questioned at the end of it, and when he could actually speak properly for the first time all day, we said, ‘How on earth did you do that?’ He said, ‘Well, I was seeing three so I hit the middle one’.”

The Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast is available on Spotify and the Podcast app

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