"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."
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Chris Lewis, Port Stroud, The History Press 2017. ISBN 978-0-7509 7010 5Chris Lewis is a larger than life character. He played 32 tests and over 50 one day internationals for England and also served six years in prison for smuggling cocaine into Britain. The book starts with his dramatic account of his arrest, then goes through his life chronologically before returning to the arrest and imprisonment.
He grew up in Guyana, quite a primitive life, where he describes making cricket balls from bicycle tyres to play with in his youth. He refers to strong Christian influences in his youth: “My father was a preacher, so we had religion at home, but as he was currently far away, my gran, a religious woman, picked up the reins, the Bible and its teachings always close at hand”. There is no evidence in the book of a lasting influence on him.
Moving to England was a challenge when he realized he didn’t really fit in: “I didn’t talk like the other children. I didn’t think like them I didn’t behave like them. I had a massive Afro and from the size of my lips that was unmistakable where I had come from…I was not part of any group so I spent a fair amount of time in my own”.
Cricket was to be his saviour. In a short time he went from being a club cricketer to getting a pro contract and playing for England. He describes that period as: “I did my best, though, to live my dreams, and this was certainly the golden time of my life”. However there was another side to the story. As he puts it: “My career had been filled with controversies: being late for matches, wearing the wrong clothes, shaving my head and so on”. He describes going to Leicestershire, becoming vice captain, being sacked, being told he was selected for the 1999 World Cup and then not being in the team when it was announced as examples.
He writes of being offered money to fix games and reporting everything to the cricket authorities only for them not to believe him and accuse him of making it all up to get other players into trouble.
His account of the end of her career and how he struggled to cope, his detailed account of prison life and how he dealt with it as positively as possible, as well as coping with being released from prison - worrying if he be able to get a train and cross the road on his own – are excellent.
A gripping book, well above the level of the average sports biography.