Ahead of his first international cap for England, I warn that we should be patient with Dan Lawrence's batting...
The first test against Sri Lanka will see 23 year-old Essex batter Dan Lawrence debut, batting at five. Lawrence will likely have a long international career, given his talent that is discussed in excellent reads from Vithushan Ehantharajah and Rob Key. Lawrence plays entirely in the wrists, with minimal feet, and often through the leg-side. Given this unique technique, it is inevitable that, he will have innings, tests, and series, where he fails.
However, we should not be quick to critique him when he gets a few low scores. The reason most players have a traditional technique is that it works, minimising risk while allowing runs to be scored. And so, an unusual one, requires brilliance. The only two batters to have made the rotation method of bat swing really work are Sir Don Bradman, the best ever, and Steve Smith, the best in the modern era. Unusual techniques look very ugly when dismissed, with feet absent for edges, lbws with a closed bat face, and it is far too easy to point out these flaws. And please, do point them out, but don't expect, or even want Lawrence to do something different. Because it works for him, and is what makes him so good.
And he is so good. A first-class average of 37.9 is hardly setting the world alight, but note the 74 games played at just 23, note that half of these will have been at Chelmsford, a bowler friendly pitch. Note the century in his second first-class game. And also note the 125 made at the MCG against a good Australia A bowling attack, having come in at 55-3.
While probably batting 5 in this series, with Bairstow at three, Lawrence's long-term spot in the side is going to be at three, as Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope will return for the tour of India, meaning England's middle order will be Root/Stokes/Pope/Buttler. Should Lawrence make the three spot his own, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Rory Burns will be in a run-off for the opener positions.
Lawrence has potential that is raved about. But when he gets out for a low score, we should not moan. The same as when Jason Roy goes for one six too many instead of a single in an ODI. What makes the modern England white-ball side so good is their careless attitude. This is not to say that they don't care about winning, or playing for their country, but do so with an arrogant self-belief, a confidence in their brilliance that made them world champions.
In England, we are so quick to reject audacity, preferring the normality of tradition. This will work for some, Alastair Cook, England's all-time batting great, is not only a player, and person of tradition, but a person of normality as well. He played cuts and leg glances, with a sweep against the spinner, and the odd drive if in form. His persona of a reserved great, humbled by his skill, is not that of a modern sports star, and it shows in his batting. His cricket, and his life, are the beautiful example of being limited by normality. This no critique, it is admiration, for a player player a difficult game with a simple technique, and doing it so well. Limited is no flaw, it is just normal.
But for the success of a limited, expected style of batting, the crazed brilliance of something different, a la Steve Smith, must be nurtured, and allowed to fail. While I doubt Lawrence will average 65, he should be allowed to play his way without fear, the mentality that was worked wonders for the ODI side. England's ODI revolution saw a refusal to play modern cricket switch to the personification of it, the definitive example. Lawrence should be allowed the same freedom to fail, for it will bring success.