Dec 22, 1999
Lawrence Rowe - a batsman of class
LAWRENCE ROWE (CRICKET)
LAWRENCE George Rowe is not the greatest batsman produced by Jamaica. That distinction belongs to George Headley - no question about that.
There is, however, no challenge for the No. 2 spot. "Yagga" Rowe, the batsman who scored 2,047 runs, including seven centuries, in 30 Test matches at an average of 43.55 is next in line.
In the most spectacular debut in the history of Test cricket, Rowe not only joined the celebrated list of batsmen who started their careers with a century when he stroked 214 against New Zealand at Sabina Park in 1972, but by scoring 100 not out in the second innings he became, and remains, the only batsman to score two centuries in his first Test.
Two years later, after scoring 120 at Sabina Park in the second Test against England, Rowe scored a memorable, stroke-filled 302 in the third Test at Kensington Oval and followed that with a fighting 123 in the fifth Test at Queen's Park Oval.
The greatness of Rowe, however, was not so much the runs he scored, but the manner in which he scored them. He was a batsman of class, an artist second to none - including Headley.
Rowe was one of cricket's great naturals - a superb and classic batsman, sharp of eye, nimble of foot and precise in movement. His batting was full of elegant artistry and there were people, young and old alike, who believed one stroke from his bat was worth every penny of the entrance fee. In fact, there were some who were satisfied just to see Rowe walk to wicket, take his guard and get into his stance.
He was a class act, a batsman who made every stroke seem easy and who hooked, drove, swept and cut with such precision easy grace that even in the hottest of battles he appeared to be enjoying himself.
Such was the strokeplay of the batsman once called Lawrence of Jamaica that there were times when fans left the arena after a big innings and did not remember his score. All they remembered, all they talked about for days were the strokes - the front-foot drive through extra-cover or left of point, the wristy stroke off the back foot as he whipped the ball through midwicket, the chip and drive wide of mid-on, the vicious hook and the delicate late cut.
Rowe, the man who whistled a tune while batting, especially when he was timing the ball perfectly, was more than a batsman who scored runs: he was a class batsman who batted as if he was born to bat.
These were the words of the late Sir Frank Worrell's father-in-law the night after Rowe's masterpiece at Kensington Oval: "When Rowe was born, the good Lord must have put his hand on his head and said, son, go thou and bat".
If the greatness of a batsman is judged on runs alone, Rowe is second to one Jamaican. If, however, it is assessed by skill and strokes, elegance and class, he is second to none.