Basingstoke - Chris Lewis's journey from opening the bowling for England in the
1992 World Cup final to contemplating suicide and being convicted of
drugs smuggling has him feeling as ambitious as when he was a teenager,
he has told AFP.
The 51-year-old - who represented England over 80 times in Tests and
one-day internationals - said it was fear over being penniless that
drove him to smuggle £140 000 of cocaine in cans of fruit
into England from St Lucia in 2008.
He stood to earn £50,000 from the deal - instead he ended up serving six and a half years of a 13-year prison term.
The engaging and lithe former all-rounder is presently touring with
the play written by Dougie Blaxland (the pen name of former cricketer
James Graham-Brown) about his life called "The Long Walk Back".
"Do you know, the funny thing is I would suggest I am more ambitious
and more optimistic than I have ever been in my life," Lewis told AFP in
an interview conducted at the Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke.
"This is a stage of my life I should have gone through in my 20s with a whole set of new experiences.
"It is a place I have not been since I was a teenager... a place when that teenage boy was dreaming of being a cricketer."
The play, directed by Australian husband and wife Shane Morgan and
Moira Hunt of the Bristol-based Roughhouse Theatre, has helped re-light
the fire within him.
"It (the play) all comes together from an idea of how we have reached
here when less than a decade ago I was sat in a prison cell and my life
was more than over," Lewis said.
It is a far cry from
when Lewis, whose long-term girlfriend Patricia stayed loyal despite him
putting her 'through the wars', contemplated taking his own life on the
first night he was incarcerated after his arrest.
"You cannot get over the prospect of facing a sentence of 15 years,"
he said. "If you have not been in jail it seems an unimaginable amount
"The question of 'if this goes the wrong way what will you do' and (suicide) was certainly something on the table.
"It is ironic that after being sentenced to 13 years that did not occur to me."
Lewis, whose morale was greatly helped by former Surrey team-mate
Jason Ratcliffe who offered him help from the start, largely kept
himself to himself in prison.
"A strange thing that happened was sitting on my bed the night after
the sentence had been passed and I cried and it got a lot of emotions
out," he said.
"After I had done crying that night I had no need to cry again.
"In terms of the cell... let us say if you like the fragrance of
someone else - the toilet is right next to the bed - there are some
people who may put up with that because they want company.
"I was more the other way I wanted to be on my own having some control of one's environment and keep your room a certain way."
There were certain rules that Lewis imposed on himself from the start
of his jail term - neither listening to music nor telling his adored
grandmother Eunice Joseph back in Guyana about his fall from grace.
"I stopped listening to music immediately because a certain tune can take you back to a particular moment," he said.
"My mum (Patricia) and aunts took the decision not to tell my
grandmother who was very proud of me and I wholeheartedly agreed with
"I would ring her from prison and ensured every Christmas that one of
my brothers would send her money from me so she would think everything
"Sadly she was pretty sick at the time, bedridden, and died while I was inside," he says, his voice choking with emotion.
In the play, Lewis takes part in a question and answer session with the audience, fielding sometimes awkward enquiries.
He says he is pleased by the play - which has included two prisons
on its tour - because it explores the emotional side of his story and
the battle he had to accept who was to blame for his predicament.
"It was not immediate but eventually I came to the conclusion the
person who has the final say in stuff that happened in your life is me.
"It is hard then to start to point the finger without pointing it backwards."