March 16, 2001

Justin Lewis: a biography

FULL NAME: Justin Morley Lewis
BORN: At Redcliff, 30 December 1982
MAJOR TEAMS: Midlands (1999/2000), CFX Academy (2000/01). Present club team: Kwekwe Sports Club.
KNOWN AS: Justin Lewis. Nicknames: Bowser ("Because of my size - I am quite round!"), Bushpig.
BATTING STYLE: Right Hand Bat
BOWLING STYLE: Left Arm Medium Pace
OCCUPATION: CFX Academy student

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: 3-5 March 2000, Midlands v Manicaland, at Kwekwe Sports Club
TEST DEBUT: Still awaited
ODI DEBUT: Still awaited

BIOGRAPHY (March 2001)

Justin Lewis is one of several promising young players to emerge from the revitalized cricketing area of the Midlands recently. He is a left-arm medium-paced bowler who played for the province at the age of 17 in the Logan Cup competition of 1999/2000, and then won a place in the CFX Academy for 2001.

He has little family background in cricket except for his uncle, Ian `Spike' Lewis who plays for Harare Sports Club. From the age of about four, however, he did get his introduction to the game with his father in the family garden, and his parents still give him great support. He attended Goldridge Primary School in Kwekwe where he started playing at Grade Three level, winning a place in the school senior team in Grade Four, which meant he was playing with or against boys three years his senior. He could have played for the younger colts team, but Justin is unable to account for his unusual promotion.

He was more of a batsman at junior school, although the highest score he can remember was only 30 not out. His best bowling figures at that level were four for 23, taken with leg-spin. He continued with this style until 1997 or 1998 when he changed to seam. He played no representative cricket at junior school.

When he went to high school, he attended Plumtree as a boarder for two years before returning to Kwekwe to attend the new high school Camelot. At Plumtree he took seven wickets for 13 runs against Falcon College, again with leg-spin, and scored 177 not out for Camelot against Kwekwe College, batting at number five. He scored two other centuries while at school. He was selected for the Midlands Under-16 team in From Three and was one of the 22 finalists for the national side at that level.

At about this time he changed his bowling style, forsaking leg-spin altogether and switching to seamers, which he says he had always really wanted to do. "I always used to watch Wasim Akram bowl," he says, "and I always wanted to be like that."

Success came pretty quickly. At the age of 13 he had begun to play for the predominantly Asian cricket club Queens in Kwekwe, and he made quick progress now to their first team, his best figures being five for 23 against Kadoma in the Midlands league. He moved to Kwekwe Sports Club and the represented Kwekwe Districts, before being selected for the Midlands team in the Logan Cup. He was never taken seriously as a batsman, though, and languished at number ten or eleven. "I really lost my batting altogether," he says, though he hopes to make it up again with the help of Academy coach Dave Houghton. His best bowling at Camelot was seven for 21 against Kyle College, once he had switched to pace.

He captained his school side briefly but didn't enjoy the job "because it put a lot of pressure on me, so I passed it on to the younger ones so they could get the experience." He left school in 1999 and spent the English season of 2000 in Hertford, playing for the local club, and had a moderately successful season there.

He took the initiative of phoning Lord's Cricket Ground personally to ask if there was a club posting available, and their reply was that they did not normally do that sort of thing. However Henry Furbanks proved sympathetic, asked for Justin's references and found him a place. Justin is hopeful of returning after his contract with the Academy expires. He feels his experience was of great benefit in developing his skill to swing the ball in the air.

It was Midlands manager Ken Connelly who first suggested to Justin that he should apply for the CFX Academy, and he felt eager to learn more about the game and develop his skills. He was accepted and joined in January 2001. He pays tribute to his high school and Queens coach Arif Amiya for being the biggest influence in his cricketing progress to date with his coaching and encouragement.

As a batsman he feels his best strokes are the drive and the pull. As a bowler he is more of a swing bowler, able to move the ball both ways in the air, although he can also generate movement off the pitch. His usual fielding positions are fine leg and mid-on.

Cricket heroes: Wasim Akram.

Personal ambitions: "To make it into the Zimbabwe side. I'd like to work on my batting and be classed as an all-rounder. One of my goals is to get to around number five as a batsman." To help to develop cricket around Zimbabwe. "It's always nice to see youngsters coming up, especially those who aren't being given the chance, and I can help give them that chance. They could be the stars of the future."

Proudest achievement so far: "Coming to the Academy. This is going to give me a whole different mental outlook on the game."

Best friends in cricket: Leon Soma and Andre Neethling.

Other qualifications: "A few O-levels and a few Pitman degrees." If he was not a professional cricketer? "I'd go back to school. It's never too late to finish my schooling."

Other sports: Rugby and hockey at school; now golf and cricket.