Trevor Bayliss has a “gut feel” that England’s uncapped ICC World Twenty20 call-up Liam Dawson can prove himself at home in international cricket.
Head coach Bayliss has never seen Dawson in the middle, but has taken on trust the word of his fellow selectors – and current England players – that the Hampshire all-rounder will fit the bill as a third spin option in India next month.
The Australian was also, crucially, encouraged by what he has himself seen of Dawson in net practice with England Lions in the United Arab Emirates before Christmas.
The slow left-armer will turn 26 at the start of March and will before then join up next week for experience with England’s Twenty20 specialists, preparing for two matches to end the tour of South Africa.
Dawson is the only surprise choice in a squad of 15, from which seamer Chris Woakes is omitted – with frontline fast bowler Steven Finn included as he continues his recovery from a side injury and no place, of course, for outcast veteran batsman Kevin Pietersen. Bayliss is happy to confirm Dawson has been picked principally on the recommendation of his colleagues.
“The other three selectors attracted me to him,” Bayliss said. “I haven’t actually seen him play in a game, but I’ve seen him at practice a couple of times. He certainly has some skills with the ball, and he bats as well, but the thing that impressed me is he has something about him personality-wise – a little bit of toughness, a bit of something – so it will be interesting to see how he goes.”
“It’s... a little bit of cheekiness around the practice, putting a little bit of pressure on the batter when he bowls a good ball, not just letting the ball go – there are a few oohs and aahs and appealing,” Bayliss continued.
“It’s a bit of a ‘gut feel’, I suppose – watching the way a guy goes about his cricket and how he holds himself.”
Even so, there is a long way to go for Dawson. “It doesn’t guarantee anything,” added Bayliss. “He’s got some hard work ahead of him, I’m sure, but it’s an exciting time for him and for England cricket.”
Dawson was shocked, and delighted of course, when national selector James Whitaker rang not only to congratulate him on his form with the Lions but to invite him on tour to India.
“He said, ‘Well done on the winter’, then asked if I’d booked any holidays for March,” Dawson said.
“Luckily I hadn’t, because then he told me I was in the Twenty20 squad.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting it. It’s a dream come true – what you do all that training as a kid hoping might happen one day.”