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Friday, May 11, 2018

the strange end of this England Cricketer - life is not all roses !!


IPL is a great entertainer ~ it has brought to fore lot of youngsters – Ishan Kishan and yesterday Rishab Pant rode to glory – and what a century it was – and what a last over thrashing ! -  there is lot of others things too – and somehow stumbled upon an autobiography ‘crazy !  my road to redemption’ -  of a Cricketer, who scored a century at Chepauk .. …. In Feb 1993 – Sidhu & Sachin scored centuries as India amassed 560/6 and won by an innings and 22 runs – interestingly the great Kapil Dev bowled only 15 overs (4 + 11) in the match – was he indisposed ?

The reason for tinge of sorrow in the book leads to the early hours of Dec 8, 2008, a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived at the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport, carrying Lewis and his friend Chad Kirnon back from a holiday in St Lucia. Lewis strolled through the green “Nothing to declare” exit, carrying a Puma cricket bag. A customs official stepped across his path, demanding to carry out a routine search, and altering the course of Lewis’s life for ever. The bag contained five tins of what purported to be Valrico pineapple juice, but with a strange chemical smell to them. When they were opened, they were found to contain a brown liquid instantly determined as liquid cocaine: around 4kg, with a street value of £140,000. “Could there be some mistake?” a distraught Lewis replied.

Much of H. G. Wells's 1898 novel - The War of the Worlds is set in Surrey with many specific towns and villages identified. After the Battle of Hastings, the Norman army advanced through Kent into Surrey, where they defeated an English force which attacked them at Southwark and then burned that suburb. Surrey  is a county in South East England, it  borders Kent, Sussex, Hampsjhire, Berkshire and Greater London.    It homes HM Prison too .  Located on the outskirts of Banstead,  HM Prison High Down is a Category B men's local prison.  The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

Once considered a mercurial all-rounder - Clairmonte Christopher Lewis   played for Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Leicestershire in the 1990s. He played in thirty-two Tests and fifty-three ODIs for England from 1990 to 1998. A fine fielder, he was an aggressive lower order batsman and a good pace bowler.  He never lived up to his potential and on that fateful day in Dec 2008, was  arrested at Gatwick Airport on suspicion of smuggling 3.37 kilograms of liquid cocaine, with a street value of about £140,000, into the United Kingdom on a flight from Saint Lucia.  It was reported that the  British had been tipped off by St Lucian police. The routine search had been anything but routine. Lewis and Kirnon went to trial the following May. Each blamed the other; both were sentenced to 13 years in jail.

Lewis was released from prison after serving six years – but that was enough to ruin his career.  He is trying to grapple to come into terms and make a comeback of sorts.    His own harrowing story gives the message an added resonance. “It’s really made a lot of the younger lads think,” says Leicestershire fast bowler Ben Raine. “It’s made me think I should probably be doing more.”  Lewis may no longer command the same respect but yet  hopes that by explaining how he succumbed to his own circumstances – money worries, boredom, low self-esteem – he can help others avoid his fate. “It’s all about the thought process,” he says. “Ultimately, if you’re not strong enough at a given time, you may end up doing that desperate thing.” Like all those convicted, he too is trying hard to  distance himself from his actions.

After a trial at Croydon Crown Court, on 20 May 2009 Lewis and basketball player Chad Kirnon were found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison- he was to get released in June 2015 after serving 6 years of his sentence at HMP High Down.  In an interview among his other harrowing experience and other things, he talked about how Sachin Tendulkar would never allow things to go into his head. “Talk about acute fear,” the 49 year old says more intently than if he is describing his Test debut in 1990 or opening the bowling in the World Cup final two years later in front of a crowd of 100,000. “My mind is trying to find any information I have about jail and it all comes from films. You’re scaring yourself and the first night you don’t know whether you can stand it. That was the hardest time. You don’t know how you’re going to survive.”

Lewis survived and, six and a half years later, in June 2015, he was released. But the stigma of jail and the complications shrouding the life of any former prisoner remain.   “Once the worst happened you either face it or bail out.  There was also a cathartic experience because at first you think: ‘It’s their fault.’ But the truth dawns: ‘The constant here, mate, is you.’ The person to blame is just you.” Lewis’s autobiography Crazy echoes this tone and strives to explain why an England cricketer, who played 32 Tests and 53 one-day internationals, ended up thinking he could carry three cans of liquid cocaine through security and customs without hitting trouble. The suggestion is that lack of money at the end of a sporting career was only one reason. An angry and disillusioned Lewis had fallen into a pattern of bad decisions.

The book captures the twists and turns of his life – from a childhood in Guyana, to moving to England aged 10, to discovering a new life in a strange country through cricket. It also depicts him as being often misunderstood and unfairly stereotyped – and draws a link between his fateful offence and the hurt he suffered after reporting an approach made to him by a match fixing gambler in the summer of 1999. Lewis refused and the next morning he met the England and Wales CricketBoard to divulge this information. He also went to the police.

He remembers well that century at MA Chidambaram stadium Chennai.   “There were other days where you see the ball really well and you’re so disappointed not to have scored more. You think: ‘I need to apply myself, I need more mental strength.  The trick as a batsman is to stay light and focus on yourself. Over the course of my career the person who nailed that was Sachin Tendulkar. He never engaged in your shenanigans. I got him out a few times but he would not let me into his head, is what he had to say on the great Batsman .. .. ..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
11th May 2o18.

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