Desmond Lewis – A Proficient Wicket Keeper Batsman
Desmond Lewis’ jettisoning from Test cricket with an average of 86 must rank among the most divisive selectorial decisions in West Indies’ history. The keeper scored prolifically for West Indies at home but was not trusted Overseas. He scored 259 runs in 3 Test matches with the help of 3 fifties and 8 catches.
Desmond Lewis, a proficient wicketkeeper-batsman, made his debut in the third Test against India in 1970-71. Lewis had impressed with a sparkling 96 as an opener for Jamaica in a tour game, and Mike Findlay struggled on a tricky pitch at Port of Spain.
Desmond Lewis started with an obstinate unbeaten 81 at Georgetown. He was promoted to open at Bridgetown and made a similarly determined 88. He added three catches off the spinners, but India’s last pair saved the follow on after Lewis went for a chance given by Bishan Bedi and obscured first slip Rohan Kanhai.
The last Test in Trinidad was extended to six days but still ended in a draw, meaning India won a series in the Caribbean for the first time. Lewis struck a more fluent 72 and came in at No.9 in the second innings to save the match. Findlay, a lesser batsman, was restored for West Indies’ next series, in New Zealand.
Desmond Lewis did not let the disappointment consume him, as his father told him there was an adequate amount of bitterness in the world,” said Karl Goodison, a member of the All Saints Youth club in Kingston where Lewis started out. “He lifted so many in the community when he made the West Indies team. He would ride his bicycle and distribute a famous sports magazine.
Afterward, he would journey to Kensington Cricket Club and spend the entire afternoon honing his skills.” In one cup match between Kensington and Melbourne in 1976, Lawrence Rowe was on Lewis’ side and Michael Holding on the other. The crowd was so big that audience sat on the clubhouse roof. Tony Becca wrote in the Jamaica Observer: “Rowe made a few runs, dismissed by Michael Holding, and Desmond Lewis made an undefeated century.
The story is that when it approached 6 o’clock, his father, who stood by the gate all afternoon, quietly said, almost to himself: ‘All day, my son. Bat till the cows come home.” In one of his last games for Jamaica, smoke was spotted coming from his keeping pads; a cigarette had burned through his whites.
In 1976 Desmond Lewis immigrated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he coached the local cricket. He struggled with his health after falling in the snow a few years ago, and died from lung cancer, leaving behind Marjorie, his wife of 49 years, four children, and six grandchildren. Desmond Lewis was born on February 21, 1946, and died on March 24, 2018. Desmond Lewis is one of the finest Jamaican cricketers and deserves to be honour.