London – Former England all-rounder Chris Lewis says he wants to help prevent young cricketers making the “wrong choices” that caused him to be jailed for cocaine smuggling as he was released from prison on Tuesday. The 47-year-old Lewis, who won 32 Test caps, was convicted in 2009. But he served less than half of his 13-year sentence. Lewis, in an interview with England’s Professional Cricketers’ Association, said money worries in 2008 had led him into trying to smuggle £140,000 ($215,000) worth of dissolved cocaine into Britain.
“I became afraid of what the future held, and at that point the thinking went awry,” said Lewis. “I made choices. They were the wrong choices and I say sorry for them,” added Lewis, a lively seamer who took 93 Test wickets at 37.52 and averaged 23 with the bat — figures that failed to reflect his undoubted natural talent. “I’ve had six years in jail and until recently I would still look around and think ‘wow you’re in jail’. That was not part of the plan. I never saw that coming.”
Born in Guyana, Lewis moved to Britain as a 10-year-old and went on to make 189 first-class career appearances for Leicestershire, Surrey and Nottinghamshire. Lewis played his final first-class match in 2000. He attempted a return with Surrey’s Twenty20 side in 2008, but was hindered by a hip injury. Lewis and former basketball player Chad Kirnon were sentenced in May 2009 after being found guilty of carrying a liquid form of cocaine into Gatwick Airport on a flight from St Lucia.
“On a physical level jail has not been hard. It’s a hard mental exercise to stop yourself from thinking negatively,” said Lewis. “For 24 hours a day you’re a prisoner. It’s nice to be back — and I don’t mean being outside — I mean back being me.”
– ‘Paid the penalty’ –
Lewis added he would be happy to work with the PCA to help prevent cricketers from making wrong choices similar to the ones that led to his imprisonment. “The PCA have been extremely supportive right from the beginning of this situation let’s say,” said Lewis. “They have been extremely helpful and certainly, going ahead, I would like to become a part of that, whether it’s giving advice or whether it’s just tugging on the grey matter to find out what happened at this particular time.
“If any of that can help any young player going ahead I am in. I am in 100 percent.” PCA assistant chief executive Jason Ratcliffe said: “Whilst we can’t ever condone the trouble Chris got himself into, it’s our duty to help our members wherever we can. “Chris has always been a popular man and has paid the penalty for his crime,” he added. Ratcliffe said modern-day players in England were supported by personal development programmes of the kind unavailable to Lewis, AFP reports.