Australia the source of Dawson's streak

Off-spinner's impressive debut was a TV hit in one Perth household
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The Independent Online

After his family and a few close friends, the man who took most pleasure in Richard Dawson's memorable 4 for 134 on his Test debut in Mohali was watching it on television in Perth, Western Australia.

Wayne Clark is Dawson's coach at Yorkshire, and, against some opposition, he promoted Dawson heavily last summer. Early in August Clark's diary records his conviction that Dawson would certainly play for England – "a formality", he wrote. But he went further: "My next prediction is that he will captain England."

When he spoke from Perth last week Clark admitted that this had been "a pretty big statement", but he did not withdraw it. "He's a real thinker, intelligent and aggressive. He has the ability to gain respect from players. He's got real leadership qualities."

Even so, this is a staggering leap of faith in an off-spinner who had only played 10 first-class games before he left for India, and whose first-class average before his Test debut was 37 wickets at 37.78.

When Clark says that his debut is "a great learning curve for him", he is talking about one of the steepest learning curves in recent English cricket. "It's the sort of thing he needs. He'll feel he deserves to be there."

Clark thought he detected a new maturity in Dawson in Mohali: he was concentrating on bowling more dot balls, trying to build pressure on India's batsmen. In the summer, Clark had to caution him against trying to take a wicket with every ball.

Not much is known about Dawson, but the critics are lining up already, saying he is too young, can't spin the ball, and – according to Christopher Martin-Jenkins of The Times – doesn't seem to have much personality off the field. Clark hit all these to the boundary.

Too young? "Age means nothing to some people. He's level-headed enough to adjust. His maturity is one of the things that struck me. He's a very intelligent bloke."

Can't spin? "If he gets a wicket that's doing a bit, you'll see he can turn it. I think he could be fairly dangerous." (In Australian, "fairly" means "quite", as in "very".)

No personality? "He's the sort of player who commands respect. He has strong opinions and won't take any rubbish. He knows what he's about."

Dawson was born in Doncaster in August 1980. He grew tall (6ft 4in), took his education seriously (Exeter University), and showed promise as a teen-ager (England Under-19 against New Zealand and Australia). Clark is a wily old Australian who bowled fast and played a few Tests, and then ran a couple of businesses in Perth before taking up coaching. He won the Sheffield Shield a couple of times with Western Australia, and won the Championship in his first season with Yorkshire.

Clark kept a diary last summer (an edited version appeared in Wisden Cricket Monthly) and he recorded his first impressions when he met the team on a pre-season tour of South Africa. He had been warned that Yorkshire had little spin bowling, but he had seen Dawson in the nets and thought he looked promising. Arnie Sidebottom, the second-team coach, told Clark that Dawson had contemplated leaving Yorkshire: there were two spinners in place and he had been away at college. He feared he would not get enough opportunity.

But Dawson was one of the five Yorkshire players who impressed Clark on the tour: "He's raw but natural," he wrote. His start was delayed by a broken hand, but as soon as he was fit in June, Clark had him in the team. James Middlebrook and Ian Fisher were gazumped. This caused consternation among some members of the cricket committee, but by the time Yorkshire's Championship run gained conviction, Dawson was the team's No 1 spinner.

It did not always go swimmingly. At the end of July Clark sensed a lack of confidence was causing Dawson to try too much and probably too hard. "We had a good chat and I told him to worry about the basics and just bowl six balls the same line and length. Don't try to get a wicket every ball."

Judging by Mohali, another of Dawson's qualities is an ability to absorb sound advice.