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Alf Gover's unique run up

Contributed by Haresh Pandya

Though a world-class fast bowler, Alfred Richard Gover was simply unlucky not to have played more than just four Tests for England. But he achieved much wider fame as a coach and built an international reputation for himself.

For a number of years he ran the famous Alf Gover Cricket School (originally named East Hill Indoor Cricket School) near Clapham Junction in London, where many of the world’s finest players sharpened their talents at one time or the other during their careers. Its alumni included Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Andy Roberts, Ian Bishop, Brian Lara, Frank Tyson, Tom Graveney, Ken Barrington, Dattu Phadkar and a host of others.  

There was a hilarious incident involving Gover on the 1937-38 tour of India under Lionel Tennyson. The English team was scheduled to play an upcountry match at Indore. Dysentery was rife in the area and poor Gover became one of its victims. He was not in a position to play in the match, but the team management persuaded him.

However, the situation got completely out of control for Gover at one particular stage in the game. Just when he went onto his usual long run-up during one of his opening overs, he felt an alarming signal from within.

Nevertheless, he started his marathon run. To the amusement and bewilderment of one and all present at the ground, he did not deliver the ball and continued bolting past the umpire, the bemused nonstriker, the startled striker, the wide-eyed wicketkeeper, the third man and finally sprinting across the outfield, up the pavilion steps and eventually into the greenroom in desperate search for the apparent safety of a lavatory, still clutching the red cherry in his hand!

The fine-leg fielder was dispatched to retrieve the ball. He emerged from the pavilion, prominently displaying his “prize catch”. Cricketer-turned-writer Ian Peebles recalled that the fielding side had to press a substitute into service in the long and conspicuous absence of Gover.

In spite of all his efforts, Gover lost the race against nature by a whisker!

“To no avails! I lost by two yards!” he later revealed.

Though the quick bowler recovered from his discomfort pretty soon, his knee began to trouble him and consequently he could not play in any of the four unofficial "Tests" on the tour.