Lewis looking for new home with head held high

The former England all-rounder thinks he is unfairly criticised. Jon Culley talked to him
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The Independent Online
"Lewis baffles doctors" ran the headline in Nottingham's evening newspaper. Accompanying it was a story describing how the specialist treating the England all-rounder's hip injury, still unable to make a precise diagnosis, had taken his X-rays and case notes to a conference he was attending, hoping other learned minds might enlighten him.

To those of a certain sense of humour, it brought to mind the episode of Fawlty Towers in which the guests include a psychiatrist. "There's enough material there," the doctor says, after the proprietor has given every indication of being totally mad, "for an entire convention."

You cannot wonder that Chris Lewis - who was granted his release by Nottinghamshire last week - breeds scepticism among those who seek to assess him, nor that they make jokes at his expense. His record of injuries includes a stress fracture of the back and a circulatory problem that caused his finger ends to blister and scab, both of which were undeniably serious, but there have been a host of other niggles and strains, not always readily identified.

Now, after a season in which because of the troublesome hip his total senior appearances have been limited to four one-day games, and with his 25-Test England career already written off in some quarters as an entry future Wisden's will not need to revise, Lewis is effectively risking obscurity. Although there is speculation that he will re-emerge as a Surrey player, this is by no means a certainty. So why is he doing it and where does he think it will lead?

"I hope that a year from now I will be settled at whatever club I play for and will be looking back on a season in which I have performed as consistently well as I did towards the end of last season," he said. "And I hope I will have forced my way back into the England side on merit.

"At one time I would have hoped it would have been at Trent Bridge but people change, circumstances change. I have not been desperately unhappy here, but for some time I have had a need to move back to London, to be on hand to help my mother and my three younger brothers and to be closer to my girlfriend."

Since his father left to live in America, Lewis's mother has been raising three boys, aged three, seven, and 16, alone. His two-year relationship with Jina, a fashion designer, reportedly endured a difficult patch a year ago, after his first request that he be released from his contract at Nottingham was turned down.

The criticisms levelled at him have bordered on the cruel at times, to such an extent that one could assume that, far from being psychologically frail, as some would have it, Lewis must possess a certain mental fortitude to have survived them.

"Initially it was very hurtful," he said, "but I can say that now it does not bother me what people say. I have become immune. People have expressed opinions about me from afar, about my character and my temperament, much of it negative, without knowing me at all.

"But those people don't know Chris Lewis. The people who do would say something different."

If assessments of his character are based on questionable evidence, his fitness record is a matter of fact. But even there, Lewis feels he has not been judged fairly. "I do get injuries," he said, "and I've had one or two more than I would have liked. But it would make interesting reading to examine the record of other England bowlers, such as Angus Fraser, Dominic Cork and Darren Gough, in the same negative light. How well have they stood up?

"It doesn't matter what people say, if I perform on the field. I had high hopes for this season which didn't work out and the aim now is to be fit to make a fresh start next April."

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