IT MAY not feel like the cricket season just yet, but this week sees two of the most famous names in the game coming to the Assembly Hall and fending off a few bouncers.
We’re not talking big blokes outside the box office, you -understand, for the partnership of David Gower and Chris Cowdrey could not be more personable.
The 59-year-old former England captains bring The Holy Bail tour to Tunbridge Wells on Friday [March 3] promising an evening of repartee and reminiscence.
Gower was born in Tunbridge Wells on April Fool’s Day, and he made a fool of many a fine bowler with his sublime batsmanship.
However, he was once criticised for not taking his captaincy seriously enough when he walked out of a press conference saying he had tickets for the theatre.
The lugubrious star is well known as a Sky Sports commentator, and has experience of the comedy arena after playing a rather uncomfortable team captain on the BBC quiz show They Think It’s All Over.
Cowdrey, son of the legendary Lord Colin, brother of Graham, father of current Kent player Fabian, went to Tonbridge School and has lived in the area for many years, in West Malling and Hartfield.
A comfortable and mellifluous raconteur, he has long been sought after as a speaker at charity events and benefit evenings.
‘This is the first time I’ve been asked to entertain
outside my comfort zone’
“This is the first time I’ve been asked to entertain outside my comfort zone,” says Cowdrey. “I took part in a tour called Sticky Wicket but that was different, you sat in an armchair while an MC asked you questions. But this is a two-man show, so we will have to put a bit more into it.”
The pair are lifelong friends, having met on the playing fields of Tonbridge, and they were best men at each other’s weddings.
“I loved it at Tonbridge,” says Cowdrey. “It’s a very big sporting school, it’s probably got the best facilities in the country. But it’s much more academic now, so I’m not sure that I would get in.
“I met David there when we were playing King’s Canterbury at rugby, not cricket, funnily enough. The nice thing about Tonbridge is I’ve still got a lot of friends going back to my days there.”
Though both men were, of course, used to performing in front of large crowds in their heydays, the best man speeches were an early test of their ability in front of an audience looking for laughs, not cover drives.
“David was going through a bad time with Graham Gooch at the time of his wedding,” recalls Cowdrey, referring to the differences of opinion between the two England stalwarts over training, dedication and Gower flying a Tiger Moth biplane over the ground during a tour match in Australia.
“In my speech I said that so many messages of congratulation had been sent in. I went through A to F pretty quickly and then said: ‘There aren’t any telegrams from anyone whose name begins with a G’.”
Gower captained his country in 32 Test matches from 1982-89 and played 117 Tests in all. Cowdrey, on the other hand, led the side just once, in the famous ‘summer of four captains’.
This unlikely scenario arose in 1988 when Gower was sacked after yet another humiliation by the West Indies.
“David and I both have a 100 per cent record as England captain against the West Indies,” says Cowdrey. “He played ten and lost ten, I played one and lost it, too.”
Cricket remains a serious business in the Cowdrey household – his son Fabian being the third generation of the family to play for Kent.
“I’ve watched him playing cricket all the way through from school to county level, and I don’t give him advice. I prefer him to say to me: ‘What did you think of that?’
“I think he’s been coping all right,” he adds, wryly. “Following in my footsteps is a lot easier than following in those of my father.”
Cowdrey’s other son, Julius, is forging a two-pronged career in entertainment. An accomplished musician, he also stars in Channel 4’s reality show Made in Chelsea.
“Julius loves life, and he’s very creative and arty,” says his dad. “He always wanted to sing, and he’s doing quite nicely. The job on Made in Chelsea is good because as a musician you’ve got to put yourself out there and get some exposure.”
So what does he think of Made in Chelsea, which follows the young residents of the posh London district?
“I have to say I had never watched it before, but after a while you start to enjoy it. So far he’s been playing a goodie, but that could change…”
Fabian helps write lyrics for Julius, and dad obviously has more of an eye on their future in showbiz rather than his own. “It would be quite something if they could have a No 1 hit together, wouldn’t it?”
The Holy Bail will be at the Assembly Hall Theatre on Friday [March 3] from 7.30pm. Tickets cost £25 and are available from www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk or www.theholybail.com