Currently, West Indies’ limited-overs opener, Evin Lewis, is recovering from a hairline fracture of his ankle. He suffered the injury while erecting, were it not cut short, what might have been a match-winning innings against England in the recent ODI series. It was also an innings that could be highly indicative of what the future has in store, for it revealed a player capable of more than just hitting sixes, as he likes to boast.
As he was being stretchered off the field, Lewis may have been reflecting on what might have been. He was batting superbly, hitting the ball to and over the boundary seemingly at will, and was well on his way to becoming the second West Indian to score an ODI double century. Instead, he was rendered almost motionless by the injury, which caused him to miss the remaining game of the series.
Had he not been forced to retire hurt he’d probably have been able to push the West Indies to a total that would’ve been beyond England, especially since he was unleashing a fusillade of big hits at the time. His last 76 runs came off 36 deliveries, and with 22 still, to come when he was carried off, 400 would not have been beyond the West Indies.
“I have a special talent in me to hit sixes,” Lewis said a few weeks ago. And it’s true. Chris Gayle is a fellow left-hander and a figure he much admires. “I hit a lot of sixes, big sixes like him,” he said of His Jamaican mentor. He is one of only three players to have scored two T20I centuries, the others being Gayle and Brendon McCallum.
The one he made in Florida against India a little over a year ago contained nine, five coming in one over. And his 125 against the same opposition in Kingston in July, had 12. To witness his batting and the alacrity with his he sends, or tries to send, the ball over the boundary is noticeable. The six is the largest and most sought-after currency note in limited overs cricket today, and Lewis is always quite prepared to deal heavily in them.
“Once I know I can hit a ball for six, I’ll hit it for six. It can be the first ball,” Lewis told Tim Wigmore of Cricinfo recently. “I always back my strength. Certain balls I know, when it’s in my arc, I know I can hit it out the ground. Sometimes the good balls also go for six – that’s how the game is. When you’re on point, you’re on point.”
And yet, this last outing at the Kennington Oval was different. The Trinidadian left-hander played a strident, high-quality innings of 176 retired hurt, but he never unsheathed one of his sixes until he was past a hundred.
There was good reason for this. His side didn’t start at all brightly. Gayle fell in the very first over, and by the time the score got to 33, two more batsmen, Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels, were back in the pavilion. The West Indies were in trouble and Lewis realized that this was not the time to be reckless.
Impressively, hardly a ball was lifted off the turf during his first one hundred or so runs. He only reveled in six-hitting after shepherding his side out of harm’s way, when building a large total became the main objective. It was only then that he freed himself to engage in his “special talent” of depositing the ball over the boundary.
Throughout his innings his back-foot was outstanding, whether he was driving through the offside or pulling, whilst a compact defence suggested a technique that, if allied with a mindful application, ought to see him grow in consistency, an area in which he has been somewhat lacking.
Not unlike Shai Hope’s efforts at Headingly, this innings by Lewis should be a turning point. It should mark a coming of age – the moment in his career when he left one level and ascended to another.
He ought not to return to his former levels of inconsistency. He must now leave behind the kind of unsteadiness that saw him score only 250 runs in his last 17 ODI innings. He has now emphasized that he’s a better player than that.
This innings showed more of his stellar qualities as a batsman. He had the reputation of being something of a basher. Well, this innings showed he was much more than that. The restraint he placed upon himself, for his first hundred or so runs at least, was admirable, and should hint to West Indies selectors that he could strive in all formats.
Admittedly, Lewis has not expressed much of a hankering to play Test cricket. “I won’t say I don’t want to play,” he continued to Wigmore. “Actually, if I do get the opportunity I would be interested but you know how things go sometimes. So let’s wait for the right moment to see what happens.”
Despite his apparent reticence, however, a number of fans of cricket’s longest format in the West Indies will be hoping that the right moment is not far away. We are all aware of the pull of the T20 leagues, but they’d be wishing that the young man, with lots of years in the game ahead of him, will see test cricket as something of a challenge he needs to conquer.
The man he looks up to most in the game recently expressed a desire to play more Test cricket. Maybe Lewis will be inspired to make himself available also. There is a road that leads from T20 to Tests that others have travelled before. If he is minded to, Lewis is very much capable of trekking that path as well.