England in India, 2006-07 February 25, 2006

'India is a unique experience'

Once touted as England's next great allrounder, the Guyana-born Chris Lewis never did live up to the hype. Here, he talks to Cricinfo about that 1992-93 tour and wonders what might have been had the present regime been in existence then

Once touted as England's next great allrounder, the Guyana-born Chris Lewis never did live up to the hype, finishing his Test career with 1105 runs (at 23.02) and 93 wickets (at 37.52). Apart from some stellar displays at the 1992 World Cup, he's best remembered for a superb century at Chennai against Mohammad Azharuddin's Indian side, in a series where England were walloped 3-0. Here, he talks to Cricinfo about that 1992-93 tour and wonders what might have been had the present regime been in existence then.

India calling
It is a while ago now, but my memories of the tour are still quite vivid for obvious reasons. It was my first and only tour of India, and so most of all I remember it for the culture shock. The weather was very harsh and severe, and at every match there was anything between 50 and 80,000 people screaming their heads off. All in all, it's a unique experience and I can't compare it to anywhere else.



Chris Lewis: Could he have been the new Botham in today's England? © Getty Images

Because of the nature of things, the cricket is very intense. You need to be fit, and you need to brace yourself for a hostile environment because you've got 50,000 Indians, to all intents and purposes, baying for your blood. But at the same time its exciting, a challenge, and a good place to play. And this England side has probably got as good a chance as any I can remember. It should be an excellent series.

Breakthrough, at last
My hundred in Madras would have to be the high point of my career. When you play cricket for England, especially if you have ambitions of being an allrounder or batter, that first Test hundred - in my case, my only Test hundred - is always important. If you've been playing for a while, you begin to wonder if you'll ever get there. So when you do finally reach three figures, the relief and the joy comes flooding out.

I didn't exactly feel as though I'd arrived, but at least I'd touched some of the heights I felt I should have been attaining to. The whole tour was an excellent and unique experience cricketwise, and it taught me a lot about my game and what I'm capable of.

I think, at the end of it all, my thoughts were that some progress had been made, and that I had finally cracked parts of my game. Maybe I believed that things would get a little easier from then on. But cricket being the game it is, as soon as you start thinking that, you are made to pay, and two Tests later I was out of the team!

The new Botham?
Admittedly my success in India increased the frenzy about me being "The new Botham", but really, that was just something that other people said. All I was trying to be was the best I could be, and even when I was struggling, people were still thinking I could be as good as Botham. I never took it too seriously, and just concentrated on getting the best out of myself, and left the comparisons to other people. I didn't feel it was a millstone, but it was a bit unfair. If you keep comparing a past great to a new guy, not many people will come out of that comparison well.

Reflecting
Looking back now - at all the ins and outs, ups and downs - it was really all part of the journey, and on the whole it was a successful journey for somebody who had started out just wishing. You could look at my career and say there was a lot more I could have done, but you could also say that, given where I started, I achieved a lot more than I thought I could.

The whole experience has been enjoyable and unforgettable, and one that I would never want to give back. But the India experience definitely remains at the top of that list because that's the place I scored my Test hundred, and I have fond memories of the whole tour

What could have been...
It's been said that I might have achieved more if I'd been part of the current England set-up, but to a large degree that could be said of anyone. The team is far more professional these days, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on performance and what makes those performances happen - whether it's mental or physical conditioning. And so for many of those cricketers who played in the 1980s and 1990s, they would look on and think: "in this environment I could have done an awful lot more".

That's probably true - had there been that sort of environment in my time, things could have gone differently. But that's not a moan. You work with what you've got, because otherwise every generation could turn around and say: "with this technology I could have done that". But that's not necessarily an excuse.

Where are they now
These days I'm based out in Berkshire where I've got my own academy in Slough and I'm doing a lot of coaching work with schools and working with the kids there. Never mind the next Botham, maybe I might unearth the next Freddie Flintoff.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo