You know you are just a normal fan, much like the innumerable around you, when you simply admire a cricketer. Happens all the time. But you know you’re special when the person you admire himself rates you highly and is often spotted watching you clobber sixes from the other end.
Today, truth be told, in white-ball cricket, the West Indies have reached a position of dominance, though checkered by inconsistencies, where a Chris Gayle is at the other end for much of the strike is occupied by Evin Lewis.
Back in 2004, when Brian Lara scored a mountaineous 400, in the aftermath of his 582-ball-knock, he was asked whom would he regard to carry the baton of West Indies cricket forward. Lara, in his boyish tone replied, “There are quite a few.. the Chris Gayles, the Ramnaresh Sarwans.. they are all capable of carrying the team forwards!”
Recently, when Chris Gayle was asked whom does he think can carry the West Indies team forward, he said, without batting an eyelid, “the likes of Evin Lewis!”
And in giving a fair indication of just how the Caribbean legend wasn’t off the mark, Evin Lewis smashed South Africa to all parts of the National Stadium at St. George’s Grenada, during a whirlwind fifty.
So utterly comfortable did he seem in whacking the likes of Rabada, Nortje, Ngidi, among the renowned pacers in cricket’s current conception, that Lewis hardly had to take 1s and 2s.
Not his thing, really.
On occasions where he does take the singles or looks for a double, it actually appears he’s out of form.
Today, success isn’t merely measured through numbers alone; it’s gauged through the impact you leave in a game, speaking of which here’s how Evin Lewis impacted the 1st T20, helping his team achieve a victory, and reprieve or Maroon fans after they were left marooned by the outcome of the Test series.
Of the 160 that the Windies chased, Evin Lewis hit 71 alone. That’s 44 percent of his team’s score.
Want more impact?
He struck his 71, his seventh T20I fifty taking just half the number of deliveries.
But Evin Lewis is no sudden revelation for his team. Nor is he, an unforeseen divine intervention.
Back in 2016, entering exactly his second T20I, he smashed a Bumrah, Shami, Jadeja-led attack at Florida to a 49-ball-100. 74 of those runs came through hits to the fence, with nine clearing the ropes with the ease a lion removes a hare from its path.
Let that sink in. It was his second-ever T20. And Lewis’s bat yielded a strike rate north of 200.
Against the same opponent, a year later, after his team went down in the ODI series, Lewis hammered a career-best T20I score of 125. This would be an inning that’ll be recounted, time and again, by the die-hard Caribbean fan to the offspring with a quiz, “Do you know how many deliveries did he take to score those runs?”
Lewis took 62 balls to reach his second T20I century. And in the the process, sent Shami’s economy to 15 an over.
Legends like Kohli, Root, Williamson and Smith, cricket’s Fab-Four as they’re called haven’t reached three figures yet in the shortest format of the game.
Here Lewis is already aiming for his third and has only, as on date, played 35 innings.
But last night was no ordinary night for the leftie who often favours the hook over the pull. The man who hails from Trinidad, the land associated with flair and flamboyance, crossed 1,000 T20 runs, thus becoming only the sixth West Indian to do so.
Though make no mistake of undermining Lewis the ODI batsman.
With an average of 36 and a somewhat disappointing strike rate of 83, given he’s accustomed us of often enjoying far higher hitting rates, Lewis is nearing 2000 ODI runs, having hit four centuries already.
While his craft doesn’t possess stellar footwork much like a Lara or Alastair Cook, Evin Lewis does more than just hammer the bowl against the spinners. In 2019, he used the sweep and the blackfoot punch to good measure during match-winning knocks against a Rashid Khan and Najib-led attack during which he scored a 54 off 75 in an ODI and become a machine gun during his 41-ball-68 to win Windies the T20 series.
Recently, against Ireland, Lewis was left agonisingly short of a single when he ended up with a run-a-ball 99 against Ireland. Again, sixty four of his runs came through strokes to the fence in the first ODI. Then, in the third ODI, he took just ninety-seven deliveries to hit 102.
But what sets apart Evin Lewis from his peers is that he’s incredibly fast between the wickets, while others like the ageing Gayle, even Darren Bravo and often, Simmons are laggard.
Though what makes him one among the many Caribbean dashers is that he’s someone who can single-handedly destroy an attack and doesn’t take all that long to get going.
The question that now beckons some answering is whether a line-up featuring Lewis, Gayle, Bravo, Russell, Pollard, Pooran and company can fight it out to collect a third T20 crown?
While we do not know what might have been the case had someone like Evin Lewis featured in the disappointing 2014 campaign, we do know the peril dangers bowlers could face if Evin Lewis gets going in this year T20 World Cup.
For a batsman who doesn’t know what fear is and will go for his shots, despite not having the most agricultural stroke-play, Evin Lewis continues to remain a white-ball wonder in the West Indian realm.
But can he also, only for his betterment, be inducted into the Test game?
That’s something that only the selectors can answer.