Cricket

Chris Lewis recounts the dark days in jail

Chris Lewis

Chris Lewis   | Photo Credit: Shreedutta Chidananda

‘For me this has been my journey and there are things that I would class as mistakes’

The one thing you have to organise in prison, says Chris Lewis, is your mind. “Not that it wasn’t difficult physically,” he smiles, “but the greater difficulty was the mental journey. How do you cope with this? How do you cope with that? How do you keep hope alive in you? The hard part is how you process the experience in your head. Whether you see it purely as a negative or whether you use it to actually fuel you to move on and still have hope. And somebody with hope is a lot more positive than somebody without.”

In the winter of 2008, Lewis was arrested at Gatwick airport for smuggling cocaine worth 140,000 GBP on a flight from St. Lucia. He was handed 13 years in prison, but was released after serving half that sentence. “In jail, you can spend all day thinking about how you’ve mucked up,” says Lewis.

“So I read a lot. I also did courses in psychology, cookery, plumbing, brick-laying, plastering... you do things to keep you busy, so that you’re not dwelling on your situation.”

Not easy

Last year, Lewis’ autobiography, Crazy, was published. His story is soon going to be told on stage in The Long Walk Back, a play written by James Graham-Brown, a former Kent and Derbyshire cricketer. Life after prison, he admits, has not been easy.

“You can say life has, at times, been a struggle. But if you make a mistake, life doesn’t go back to how it was straight away. There’s a period of struggle, a period of getting it right, a period of clearing up the mess — that you made yourself. I don’t necessarily look at it as a struggle.

“It’s a part of a process. I made mistakes, and as a consequence of that things aren’t necessarily going to work well, whether that is your relationship with your family, your friends... all those things take time to repair.”

Chris Lewis... in his old and new spells.

Chris Lewis... in his old and new spells.  

 

Lewis was a talented all-rounder, who, in the eyes of many, should have played more than the 32 Tests and 53 ODIs he managed, the last of those in 1998. Jail was a dizzying fall from grace but Lewis has accepted everything life has thrown at him with a remarkable stoicism.

He freely admits he has erred; there is no whingeing, no bitterness. “I don’t necessarily feel a sense of regret,” he says.

“For me, this has been my journey. And along the journey there are things that have happened that I would class as mistakes. However, it’s been my journey and it’s that journey that’s gotten me to the place I am in now, which is being happy with the person I am. I’d be fearful of changing anything, in case I didn’t get the learning experience that I got.”

There is a sense that English cricket, perhaps, did not fully understand Lewis. There were murmurs about a flashy lifestyle and criticism when he failed to live up to the hype of being ‘the next Ian Botham’, although he had never asked to be labelled so.

“Sometimes when you look at certain sportsmen and they don’t fulfil the ambitions or the dreams that other people think they had, you can ask, ‘What went wrong?’

“Nothing went wrong. I represented my country 80-odd times. Not everybody is going to represent their country 200 times. Some people play cricket for 24 hours a day and think about cricket 24 hours a day. Some people will play cricket for 12 hours a day and then want to go out. I was more that sort of person. And I’m glad I did that. Rather than being somebody else.”

After he named three England players alleged to have been part of a match-fixing scandal in 1999, Lewis felt he was being driven out of the county game. But he now bears no-one any ill-will.

“You’ve got to understand — I was an immigrant. I came here from Guyana as a 10-year-old boy. And I lived my dream, which was to play international cricket. I can say, ‘This person could’ve treated me better... that person could’ve treated me better.’ But ultimately they picked me 80-odd times to play for England. So there’s only so much you can moan about.”

His family, though, has had to put up with a lot. “I put the people I cared about most in harm’s way,” he says. “So I would say, ‘Shame on me for doing that.’ That’s my learning curve.

“But my family is wonderful now. I’m appreciating the little things even more than I did before. My experience has been enhanced. Not by jail but by being able to look at things and appreciate what I already had.”

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 3:34:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/chris-lewis-recounts-the-dark-days-in-jail/article24782062.ece

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