Prolific 'keeper/batsman Desmond Lewis dies

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

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Desmond Lewis, a steady wicketkeeper/batsman who played three Test matches for the West Indies, died on March 25 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was 72.

Marjorie Lewis, his wife of 49 years, told the Jamaica Observer that the cause of death was lung cancer.

The Kingston-born Lewis was a member of the powerful Kensington Senior Cup team of the 1970s that also included star batsmen Lawrence Rowe, Basil Williams and Herbert Chang, all-rounder Richard Austin and fastbowler Junior Williams.

Most of his 36 first-class matches were for Jamaica in the regional Shell Shield. He had a top score of 96 and took 67 catches.

Lewis made his first-class debut against England in 1970, and was called up for his first Test appearance in the 1971 home series against India. He scored three half-centuries against India before being dropped for the tour by New Zealand the following year, making way for Vincentian wicketkeeper Mike Findlay. He took eight catches in Tests.

His batting average of 86.33 in the three matches (five innings) in which he represented the West Indies during the Indian tour remains one of the fine achievements by a West Indian in a short run. He topscored in the series with 88 and had other gutsy knocks of 81 not out, playing in his first match at Georgetown, Guyana, and 72 in the final Test. He also opened the batting for the West Indies during the series.

It was in the same five-match series, won 1-0 by India, that fellow Jamaican Maurice Foster scored 99 and cried when, in trying to get a single to reach his century, the ball rolled onto the stumps at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad & Tobago.

Lewis' last first-class match was in 1975. He emigrated to the United States four years later and played a major role developing cricket in the Atlanta area.

Desmond Lewis is survived by his wife, three sons and six grandchildren. His funeral service will be held April 15 in Atlanta.

In a letter to the editor, Boy's Town official Karl Goodison paid his respect to Lewis.

“I wish to pay tribute to Desmond Lewis, former West Indies player, who passed away in Atlanta, Georgia last [Sunday]. Lewis came from a humble background and through good values and attitude became an outstanding cricketer and gentleman.

“He was a member of All Saints Youth Club in Jones Town and lifted so many in the community when he made the West Indies team. Lewis would ride his bicycle and distribute a famous sports magazine. Afterwards, he would journey to Kensington Cricket Club and spend the entire afternoon honing his skills at batting and wicketkeeping.

“He was selected for Jamaica and performed credibly and caught the eyes of West Indies selectors. He replaced Mike Findlay in the last three tests against India in 1971. He averaged 86.33 batting and eight dismissals behind the stumps. Would you believe that the next West Indies series, he was dropped and replaced with the same player he had displaced?

“It was easily, one of the worst selection blunders in West Indies cricket, which was noted in the book Beyond the Boundary.

“Lewis did not allow the disappointment to consume him as he says that his father told him there was enough bitterness in the world,” Goodsion wrote.

— Howard Campbell

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