Born on December 7, 1957, Geoff Lawson could have been one of the most feared bowlers in the world if not for being plagued with injuries. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at the career of the Australian bowling great, who went on to become one of the most astute coaches in the game.
A tall, lanky young fast bowler from Down Under grabbed eyeballs when he bowled a few bouncers at an England opener. The year was 1978, when England was touring Australia. A lively young chap named Geoff Lawson, hardly 22, ran in to bowl to the Geoffrey Boycott. Lawson managed to hit the England opener with two nasty bouncers before going on to dismiss him. Lawson picked three wickets in that innings and managed to catch the attention of the Australian selectors.
Yet, it took close to two and a half years before Lawson finally got an opportunity to don the white kits for his country. Being an excessively competitive player, Lawson viewed this opportunity as if it were his last and put in as much effort as he could, and pushed his body to perform at the highest level. He succeeded, but his success was unfortunately not as long as he would’ve expected it to be as he was soon plagued by injuries and was pushed down the pecking order. Like a true Australian, he clawed his way back into the side and in two years’ time, he would get the opportunity to orchestrate the bowling attack once again.
This time it was high stakes. Lawson, in the absence of an injured Dennis Lillee, was to lead the pace attack against England in the 1982-83 Ashes. Lawson revelled under pressure and ended the series with a phenomenal tally of 34 wickets to his name, rightfully earning the player of the series award. Lawson did well to bowl consistently for the next two to three years. Despite losing form in the middle, he proved his worth yet again as he picked up a lot of wickets on Australia’s tour of Pakistan, where pitches were never conducive for the quicker bowlers.
But Lawson’s best years came when he captained his domestic side, New South Wales, in the Sheffield Shield. As a leader, he inspired his troops, that comprised the likes of Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh – two Australians who went on to etch their names into the history of Australian cricket. He captained NSW for four years and brought a glorious end to his domestic career as he helped them win the title in his last game ever in 1991-92 season.
Following retirement, Lawson continued to stay connected with the game. He got the opportunity of coaching the side that he player for, for so long. He coached NSW till an offer to coach the Pakistan national side came along. Lawson transported into a tricky space as he took over after the former Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room. This unfortunate incident happened shortly after Pakistan’s embarrassing ouster from the 2007 World Cup after a loss to minnows Ireland. The case is yet to be solved but Pakistan surely moved on. Lawson came in and straightaway helped the side reach the finals of the inaugural T20 World Cup which went to MS Dhoni and his men. He even briefly assisted Afghanistan in the U-19 World Cup and was roped in by Kochi Tuskers Kerala to be their coach during that series.
Lawson was a true Australian – an aggressive man on the field with a strong opinion about the game off it. The man had never layered his words with caution or taken the usual diplomatic route while talking about some of the best players of the modern game. His words showed great passion for the game and his country as he called for various chops and changes that could benefit the Aussies.
He questioned Ricky Ponting’s place in the Australian Test side almost a year before the man announced his retirement and even felt that Sachin Tendulkar needs to re-think on quitting the One-Day International format of the game. He even criticized the attitude of Cricket Australia to protect their young fast bowler Patrick Cummins. He felt the best way to improve and utilize a talent like Cummins was to give him as many games as possible.
Lawson, as a player, could’ve easily been the best and the most feared bowlers to emerge from Australia, if not for his recurring injuries. Coming from a country that produced some of the greatest fast bowlers, Lawson perhaps was undone by his own frailty. But, as a student of the gentleman’s game, Lawson has done exceedingly well.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life – the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC).