Chris Lewis: 12 facts about the talented English all-rounder who lost his way and landed in prison

Clairmonte Chris Lewis, born on the Valentine’s Day of 1968 in Georgetown, Guyana was a colourful character and had the potential to be one of the finest all-rounders for England. Hailed as the “next Ian Botham”, disciplinary issues and self-centered attitude denied him living up to his early potential. Not only he didn’t do justice to his cricket career, he got convicted for drug smuggling in 2008 and spent more than half a decade behind the bars. Suvajit Mustafi lists out 12 facts about the eccentric former English cricketer.

 

1.  Moved to England at the age of 10

Born in Guyana, Lewis, the son of a Baptist preacher, moved to Britain with his family when he was 10. His parents soon separated and he was brought up by his mother and grandma.

 

2.  Excelled in sports as a teenager

Living in London, Lewis attended the Willesden High School and fared better in sports than academic subjects. He was only 17, when Leicestershire signed him. There began a promising career which lasted for 32 Tests and 53 One-Day Internationals (ODIs).

 

3.  Birthday debut

On his 22nd birthday, he made his international debut for England in an ODI against West Indies at Port of Spain. He bowled seven overs, gave away 30 and claimed the wicket of Desmond Haynes.

 

4.  An exhibitionist, homosexual or just too self-centred?

Few of the English players had problems with Lewis’ attitude and he earned the reputation for being self-centred. Players didn’t want to share hotel-rooms with him as they complained that he was an exhibitionist and wandered around naked!

Though Lewis was never short of girls around him, his bachelor identity ignited rumours that he was a homosexual and while a section believed that, there were others who believed he was just self obsessed and was happy posing nude for a women’s magazine.

 

5.  “Greatest all-round athlete England team ever had”

Derek Pringle, a former England cricketer, who is now a correspondent with The Daily Telegraph, was Lewis’ roommate during the World Cup 1992 in Australia. In a report in that paper, Pringle described him as “CB Fry apart, he certainly looked like the greatest all-round athlete the England team have ever had, being quick, agile, co-ordinated and strong. But just as his body seemed perfect, his mind often appeared a confused mess and he was remarkably uncertain of himself for a top-level sportsman.”

 

6.  Peculiar habits

In his article, Pringle described Lewis as, “Talented, narcissistic (he once posed naked for a magazine), frustrating, but unfailingly polite.” He said that Lewis had the habit of ordering just about everything on the room-service menu, then only tasting a mouthful of each dish and then leaving it to smell out the room. Pringle also said that Lewis owned a hairdryer that gave off electric shocks; he knew it the day when he experienced it.

 

7.  Religious yet lavish

Lewis is an avid Bible reader and was brought up in a strict environment. He was religious and at the same time he also got involved in unwanted things. He did have a liking for designer clothes and flash cars, even if he didn’t earn as much as other cricketers.

 

8.  The prat without a hat and the “most idiotic cricket injury of all time”

The Sun labelled him, ‘The prat without a hat’, after he was forced to leave the field following a sunstroke after having his head shaved and not worn any protection, during the first match of England’s tour of the West Indies in 1994. “He shaved his head, went without a hat, and now he’s got sunstroke. I have been telling him all week to wear a hat,” explained the then England’s physiotherapist Dave Roberts. Journalist Simon Barnes described as “the most idiotic cricket injury of all time”.

 

9.  Match-fixing claims

When the match-fixing drama took the cricket world by storm in 2000, Lewis told the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) about match-fixing allegations involving offers that were made to him and three other players. Those claims were never validated as other players began maintaining safe distance from him.

 

10.  Smuggling cocaine and arrests

On December 8, 2008, was Lewis was arrested at Gatwick Airport on suspicion of cocaine smuggling. Lewis along with basketball player Chad Kirnon was sentenced in May 2009 after being found guilty of carrying liquid cocaine in fruit juice cans into Gatwick Airport on a flight from St Lucia. He was sentenced 13-years for drug-smuggling.

 

11.  Prison responsibilities

Lewis had new responsibilities in prison and was appointed the representative of his prison wing for anti-bullying and race relations.

 

12.  Prison release and new mission

Lewis was released on June 9, 2014, after serving six years of a 13-year sentence for drug-smuggling. The jail time seemed to have impacted the former all-rounder in a huge way and he has committed to work with the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) to do all he can to help young players avoid falling in the same pits that he did.

 

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades , all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)

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