Chris Lewis is without question the best athlete I ever played with, an amazing specimen. He could bowl at 90mph, was like a gazelle in the field, and could take the game away from you with the bat.
His case highlights the difficulty of what sportsmen do when they complete their playing careers. By the end of his playing days, Chris would have been earning something between £75,000 and £100,000 a year. When he retired, that income would have diminished because coaching pays well but not that much. Those regular pay cheques suddenly disappeared. He would have been accustomed to a lifestyle that he almost certainly couldn't afford any more.
Chris was always an energetic presence in the England side, and no less when we bowled in tandem. He liked his cars and he liked his clothes. Famously he had an open-top silver Mercedes – the one whose flat tyre caused him to be 40 minutes late for the Oval Test match in 1996 – and wore designer labels, nice sunglasses and so on. You might say he was outspoken in his dress sense. All that costs money. It is interesting, thinking about it, that none of us really knew what made him tick. He was a popular figure in the England dressing room but not many of us were really that close to him. He was a private person, keeping himself to himself, and sometimes he could be volatile. Not in the sense of big mood swings; it's more just there were days when he turned it on and days when he struggled.
All of which made me extremely sad to hear about the sentence handed down to him yesterday.
He was obviously a complex character, but always very friendly and polite to my family and me. Like most of us who knew him, his arrest took us hugely by surprise. We had absolutely no idea he was mixed up in any of this.
You look over his career and think to yourself: if only.
My first memory of him was on a Middlesex pre-season tour to La Manga in Spain. He picked up a toe injury and failed to bowl a ball. He then appeared in international cricket on my first overseas tour to the Caribbean (which was also Devon Malcolm's debut tour) in 1989-90, where he made his one-day debut. Even then his athleticism and ability to make the game seem so easy stood out.
Like many, he was labelled as the next Ian Botham, and until Andrew Flintoff came along he was the closest in natural talent. His bowling could be genuinely quick; I remember Jack Russell, England's wicket-keeper, having to stand two yards behind the 30-yard circle in Perth during a one-day game against New Zealand in 1990-91.
Yesterday was indeed a sad day for cricket.Reuse content