Home > Features > Moments in history >

Once ‘Lawrence of Jamaica’, now just a pariah – in his own country

Once 'Lawrence of Jamaica', now just a pariah - in his own country

The 1980 West Indies (standing from left): Physio Dennis Waight, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall, Collis King, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Deryck Parry, Faoud Bacchus, Gordon Greenidge and David Murray. Sitting (from left): Manager Clyde Walcott, Alvin Kallicharran, Deryck Murray, Clive Lloyd (captain), Viv Richards, Lawrence Rowe, Andy Roberts and assistant manager Cammie Smith © Getty Images

Lawrence Rowe, the only batsman to score a double-hundred and a hundred on Test debut, was born on January 8, 1949. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the saga of this classical, stylish underachiever from Jamaica who was later shunned by his own countrymen.

There has probably been no other batsman like Lawrence Rowe. He hailed from the island team of West Indies that has produced some spectacular of batsmen. Among the most illustrious of contemporaries, Rowe stood out for his style. He drove with élan – even off the backfoot. He hooked amazingly hard; he played the late cut incredibly late, often through the slips. And his nimble-footed aggression meant that he could tear any spin attack to shreds. And when he hit through the covers off the backfoot, it looked so regal that everything else on the ground seemed pale in comparison.

Rarely has a batsman promised such greatness and then fallen to levels such mediocre. Any batsman of his technique, power, reflex and panache was destined for lofty heights. And yet he finished with just 2,047 runs from 30 Tests at 43.55 – significantly higher than his First-Class average of 37.57.

Rowe was an obvious choice when he made a classy 227 in a tour match against the visiting New Zealand side. He was an obvious choice for the Test at Kingston. He responded with knocks of 214 and an unbeaten 100 – the only one to score a double-hundred and a hundred on his Test debut. And his debut aggregate of 314 runs still stands.

Kingston never disappointed Rowe. Two years later Rowe scored 120 at the same venue. In the next Test he bludgeoned a 302 against a strong England attack off 430 balls at Bridgetown. No one in Kingston had ever seen anything like it. He massacred a potent English attack all over the park – in style.

He always seemed to see the ball early, and he was as lazy and elegant as he was lethal; it was dangerous for the opposition and a delight for the spectators, more so because the supreme grace lasted for a period of over 10 hours. It was in this innings that Rowe hit the most famous stroke of his career – a flat hook off Bob Willis that went straight, almost at head-level, into the stands over square-leg. And to add insult to the injury, he used to whistle a tune after completing every shot, as if nothing had happened!

The greats were always vocal in his praise. Michael Holding has mentioned that Rowe was undoubtedly the greatest batsman he has ever seen; Desmond Haynes has mentioned Rowe as his childhood hero; his reputation spread so far and wide that he on one occasion he refused to bat in a side match because the pitch was damp and, as per Holding, “he could not be the Lawrence Rowe the people were expecting.”

Once 'Lawrence of Jamaica', now just a pariah - in his own country

Lawrence Rowe supremely talented but was unfortunate to finish as an under-achiever © Getty Images

At the end of the England series Rowe’s Test average stood at 70.68 after 12 Tests. The numbers were phenomenal, and he was easily the best batsman in the world. Comparisons with Don Bradman and George Headley had already started.

To nobody’s surprise he was called up to play for Derbyshire. It was then that the ailments began: he developed hay fever and the occasional headache, and – worst of all – Rowe was diagnosed as allergic to grass.

He still continued to play, but with reduced success. Then, when West Indies toured India later that year for one turned out to be a humdinger of a series, Rowe failed miserably even in the nets. It seemed that there was a problem with his eyesight, and he was rushed home.

The opticians found that Rowe had better than a 20-20 vision – he could see so well that he could read the manufacturer’s name on the chart. However, he was diagnosed with terygnium, resulting in growths in his eyes blurring his eyesight. His right eye was almost completely covered, and the left one was partially affected as well. He had to undergo surgery, but the archaic contact lenses often made his eyes water. The eyesight and reflex – attributes on which his game was built – were gone.

He came back, though, in what was marked as the ‘unofficial Test championship’ Down Under, Rowe began with 28 and 107 at Brisbane, managing to hold on to his 70+ average. Thereafter it all went downhill. He never reached the lofty heights he had once perched so comfortably at, though he kept on scoring runs every now and then.

Picked for World Series Cricket, Rowe had one last hurrah – scoring 175 against the Australians. The legendary drives and hooks came into play once again, and a he played one so late that Rodney Marsh had almost gathered it. Ian Chappell at first slip had no time to react. It made even the otherwise composed Richie Benaud ecstatic, and for a while it seemed that the Lawrence of Jamaica – as he was often called – was back at his prime.

After quitting in 1980, Rowe led a rebel West Indian team to South Africa in 1982-83. As a result he was shunned in his favourite Kingston: he was generally considered an outcast by the public; the general tone was that Rowe had betrayed them; as a result he was forced to shift residence and settle down in Miami. Along with Lance Gibbs, he was largely responsible for organising international matches in Lauderhill, Florida.

In 2004 Rowe was named as one of Jamaica’s five greatest cricketers of all time – along with Headley, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Jeff Dujon. On June 20, 2011, Rowe was honoured at Sabina Park during the lunch interval of the India Test along with Holding and Walsh; a stand was named after him, and he sincerely apologised in public for making the tour about three decades back. Barely three months after naming the players’ enclosure in the northern stand after Rowe, the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) withdrew the honour following Rowe’s comment in a radio interview that he had done nothing wrong by going to apartheid South Africa in 1983 and 1984.

He had been banished in spirit from his homeland forever.

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 17, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Sep 18, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 19, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 55 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Mumbai Indians won by 9 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 72 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 13, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 6 wkts

Photos

West Indies vs Bangladesh, 2nd Test at Gros Islet

Videos

Anderson plays golf with Jaguar competition winners

Kevin O’Brien: Ireland will look to adjust to conditions in Australia-New Zealand ahead of ICC World Cup 2015

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Chennai Super Kings (CSK) CLT20 2014 Match 1 — Key battles

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Chennai Super Kings (CSK) CLT20 2014 Match 1: Kolkata Knight Riders’ likely XI

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Chennai Super Kings (CSK) CLT20 2014 Match 1: Chennai Super Kings’ likely XI

CLT20 2014: Why Mumbai Indians failed to recreate the magic

Bangladesh Bangladesh vs West Indies Bangladesh vs West Indies 2014 Champions League T20 Champions League T20 2014 CLT20 CLT20 2014 Lahore Lions MI Mumbai Indians Northern Knights Southern Express West Indies West Indies vs Bangladesh West Indies vs Bangladesh 2014

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings Live Streaming CLT20 2014 1st Match at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings Live Cricket Score CLT20 2014 1st Match at Hyderabad

Shivnarine Chanderpaul climbs to 3rd in ICC Test rankings

BCCI likely to decide on fates of Joe Dawes, Trevor Penney on September 26

CLT20 2014: Trent Boult and Tim Southee set up match for Northern Knights against Mumbai Indians, feels Michael Hussey

West Indies raise hopes ahead of India tour with dominant show against Bangladesh

Leave it to Smiths — an all-Smith XI

Kevin O’Brien: Ireland will look to adjust to conditions in Australia-New Zealand ahead of ICC World Cup 2015

Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014: Top 10 young players to keep an eye on

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Chennai Super Kings (CSK) CLT20 2014 Match 1 — Key battles

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

635 Posts | 7 Fans

Yuvraj Singh in Anupam Kher show

Bayern Munich vs Manchester City, Live Streaming and Score: Watch Live Telecast Online of BAY vs MCI UEFA Champions League 2014-15

West Indies raise hopes ahead of India tour with dominant show against Bangladesh

5 reasons you shouldn’t download iOS 8 update tonight

Bayern Munich vs Manchester City, UEFA Champions League 2014-15, Preview and Team News: Manuel Pellegrini’s men aim to top Group of Death

NGOs pursue education for all

4 ways stress is damaging your heart

Vikram’s I teaser crosses 2 million views in less than 24 hours, beats Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiyaan!

Is Aamir Khan guilty of partaking in objectification of women?

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Sex Tip #38 — Get your man turned on with a striptease!

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here