Evin Lewis: The Grey In-between

Fri, Jan 31, '20

by KRISSANIA YOUNG

Commentary

Ljupka Cvetanova — “Things are always either black or white. The grey in-between is only a confusion.”

Talent

The cricketing nation as called the ‘West Indies’, in their history, has had many a problem. Lengthy as that list of problems might be, you’ll never find a place for ‘talent’ thereon. And while we could argue the indexical nature of one’s temperament in regards to one’s talent, let’s forgo that for one moment and see Evin Lewis. Not look at, but see—Trinidadian, left-hander, opener, aggressor—Evin Lewis.

Evin Lewis made his debut for the West Indies in March of 2016, during that year’s ICC World Twenty20, featuring in WINDIES’ solitary loss in the tournament, against Afghanistan in Nagpur. Having gone on to represent the region an additional eighty-two (82) times, in thirty-one (31) T20 Internationals (T20I) and fifty-one (51) One-Day Internationals (ODI), it is safe to say that the left-hander has made himself a permanent fixture in the West Indies limited overs side.

Hence, there are only three players who boast a higher number of T20 International centuries than the Trinidadian: India’s Rohit Sharma, New Zealand’s Colin Munro and Australia’s Glenn Maxwell. Even teammate, the great Christopher Henry Gayle, must settle with being level on two T20I tons alongside Lewis.

In noting the opener’s T20I average of 32.20, as well as his ODI average of 35.77—almost four years on from his International debut—it would also be safe to say that the St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots opener has, so far, fallen short of his potential (more so in 50-over cricket). Safe to say—as in, one would be forgiven, understood or even agreed with if they were to mention this. But for the bizarre fact that no one really speaks of Evin Lewis in the Caribbean. Certainly not enough to fuss over his underachievement, so far. Which leads me to the subconscious abandon with which fans dismiss the talent of Lewis.

Odd man out

Lewis’ debut came seventeen (17) months on from the infamous 2014 ‘walk-off’—which is now a defining event in West Indies Cricket history—where West Indian players pulled out of a limited overs tour of India, subsequent to a pay dispute. Which was spearheaded by then-ODI captain, Dwayne Bravo and involved the likes of Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons, etc.

The former Mumbai Indians opener graced the International stage seven (7) months prior to the earliest member of West Indies’ ‘Generation Y’—the core of players Caribbean fans believe to be the future of the region’s cricket—making his senior limited overs debut. This was Alzarri Joseph, who debuted in 50-over cricket against Pakistan in October of 2016. To be more significantly noted, however, is the four-year gap between the 28-year-old Lewis, and the eldest recognized member of Generation Y—that being countryman, Nicholas Pooran, at 24 years of age.

These are instinctively the two major advocates in Caribbean cricket. Therefore, if we are not speaking of those involved in 2014, whether to present them faultless or stained in reference to that incident, we are caught up in heated discussions regarding the likes of Shimron Hetmyer, Alzarri Joseph, Nicholas Pooran, Keemo Paul, etc—Generation Y. And as for Evin Lewis, where is his place in this design?

Things are always either black or white. The grey in-between is only a confusion.

Unconventional

When looking at Lewis’ wagon wheel, one might mistake the graphic for that of a right-handed batsman who prefers the cut shot and is strong on his legs. Understandably, Lewis amasses a large chunk of his runs on the off-side. Yet, the fact that he has perfected—almost—the art of the swivel, ensures that he is as strong on the on-side as he is the off-side.

In the West Indies’ loss in the 1st T20I of their 2019 tour of India; with the visitors batting first, Lewis got his team going, scoring 40 runs from just 17 deliveries. Employing that swivel pull shot (and/or heave) he so regularly uses, 21 of those runs were scored between fine-leg and square-leg, while 12 of the remaining 19 runs were obtaining by piercing a packed off-side field, through the cover region.

It was a familiar tale during WINDIES’ win in the 1st ODI of Ireland’s 2020 limited overs tour of the Caribbean, where Lewis fell just short of what would have been a well-deserved century. Instead, he was left stranded on a run-a-ball 99. In this knock, 57% of his runs came, again, either between deep fine-leg and deep square-leg (30 runs) or through cover (26 runs).

Lewis, who stands outside leg-stump, shows a willingness, often times lacking in WINDIES batsmen, to sweep the ball. His reluctance in coming forward, however, makes it difficult for him to transfer his weight to his front-foot  in time to drive any full-ish delivery back down the ground (along the ground). Therefore, the straight drive is a shot he scarcely employs.

Seeing as none of his timing comes from a transfer of weight to his front-front; when playing down the ground, he generates timing mainly from the power and speed of his hands and the unique angle at which he connects bat to ball. A stagnant Lewis, tends to play across the ball (slicing the ball—while somehow maintaining control of the shot), with an open bat-face, as opposed to playing across the line of the ball.

125 not out (T20I) against India in 2017 in Kingston, 176 retired hurt (ODI) against England in 2017 in London, 100 from 49 deliveries (T20I) against India in 2016 in Florida, and not to mention many noteworthy performances in the Caribbean Premier League. Evin Lewis has given us several memorable moments with his explosive hitting. He has been averaging 41 and 45.86 in T20Is and ODIs, respectively, under Phil Simmons. He’s conquered the off-side, while being unconventionally dominant on the leg-side. At the age of 28 and heading into his prime, we have seen fruits of the labour he has been putting in to overcome his weakness down the ground. A few central-contract rejections might not make him a mercenary, and at his age, he might not be a member of Generation Y. But, maybe he’s the present of West Indies cricket.

-teaser-

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