ROWE, LAWRENCE G.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Lawrence George Rowe, also known as “Yagga” was an elegant right-handed batsman. He was described by former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding, his team mate, as “the best batsman I ever saw.” It was felt that his ability was so extraordinary that former captain and star of the West Indies team Garfield Sobers believed that he could have been the greatest of all West Indian batsmen.
At one game Rowe hit a ball so cleanly that it followed a level trajectory like a guided missile over the boundary for six. Gideon Haigh describes the incident: Early in his innings against England at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados; in March 1974, Rowe received a bouncer from Bob Willis. He smashed it flat into the stand at square leg; it travelled most of the way at head height.
Rowe made his debut for Jamaica in 1968-69. He then made history on his Test match debut vs New Zealand at Kingston in 1972 scoring 214 and 100 not out, the first time that a cricketer had scored a double and single century on Test debut. It also gave him a batting average of 314 after his first Test match.
Rowe was a heavy scorer at his home ground. In 1974 vs England, he scored 302 in 10 hours. On his arrival in Australia for the 1975-76 tour, Rowe was being hailed as the best batsman in the world. A century in his second Test innings in Australia maintained his average at over 70 runs per innings and it seemed to confirm his reputation. However, the team was humiliated by the Australian side over the rest of the series and Rowe never regained his previously devastating form.
In the days before Viv Richards, Rowe was a West Indies batting “hero.” He played 30 Test matches scoring a total of 2,047 runs at an average of 43. He was known to whistle whilst he batted. Though he seemed to be injury prone; he suffered problems with his eyesight and was allergic to grass. He played 30 Tests between 1972 and 1980 and played 11 One Day Internationals. Rowe played for Derbyshire in the English County Championship and also joined World Series Cricket, where he scored 175 in one match for the WSC West Indies XI. He is one of only four West Indian batsman to have scored a triple century, the others being Garfield Sobers, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle.
Rowe became infamous 1982-83, because he led a rebel tour to South Africa during the days of apartheid when they were isolated from world sport. The West Indian public was outraged by the tour and Rowe himself was ostracized in Jamaica. This may have been a primary reason for Rowe subsequently settling down in Miami, USA.
This incident took place 25 years ago, and we have learnt that Rowe along with the other West Indians who went on the tour with him was forgiven by the West Indies so much so that one of them subsequently played for the West Indies again, former South African leader Nelson Mandela and former Jamaican Prime Minister Eddie Seaga.
According to one ardent observer of the game Rowe was a gifted cricketer and that is what he must be remembered for.