Amidst the chattering assembly of his peers in the members area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground,Mick Lewis sits alone in silence. The conversing others are too busy to take notice of the match below,but not the former Australian fast bowler. He has his eyes transfixed on the cricket,and especially on a celebrating Lasith Malinga. Quietly,without gaining too much attention,he raises his glass of beer in toast. Well done,mate, he mutters softly. Enjoy it. Not everybody in life gets a second chance.
Six years before Malinga got smashed for 96 runs in 7.4 overs by the Indians at Hobart,Lewis had conceded 113 runs in his spell of 10 overs at the Wanderers to the South Africans the most ever in the history of one-day cricket. While Malinga redeemed himself in the very next match on Friday with figures of 4 for 49,the 37-year old from the northern suburbs of Melbourne never could.
Everyones cards are dealt in a certain way, he says,while drinking his beer. Mine were dealt with a pinch of irony.
Ironic,it sure is. For a man who hated cricket with a passion and picked up a leather ball at the age of 22,the climb to the top and rubbing shoulders with the cream of Australias elite was a sharp one. But just four months and six matches after he,a person with no formal coaching,made a sensational ODI debut at the age of 31 (he stopped New Zealand from scoring five runs in the last over with three wickets),Lewis played a game in Johannesburg that cost him over a 100 runs. And his international career.
Everyone forgets that I had Herschelle Gibbs dropped on 44,and then on a 108, he says matter-of-factly. The first of those occasions was in just his second over. At that point,his figures read 0/17 in 1.4 overs. Gibbs edged,Adam Gilchrist dropped,and the ball raced away to the boundary. No regrets, adds Lewis. If we could change history,we would all be great human beings.
To understand the destruction on that inglorious March day,Lewis helps put things into perspective.
Let me put it this way. After six overs,I had gone for 54 runs. Jacques Kallis,at the same time,had been hit by our batsmen for 70, he says. We all know how good Kallis is,and he would have gone for over a 100 too had he completed his quota. Someone had to in our team,and it was me. Im just glad that Punter backed me as the best death bowler in the team. With three overs to go in the chase,Lewis was recalled by Ricky Ponting to the bowling crease.
At that point,he had cost 96 runs in nine overs. Still,it wasnt in three-figures and the Aussie was still a long way away from New Zealander Martin Sneddens 21-year old mark of 105. I bowled six perfect yorkers in my final over,but still went for 17. If any of those inside edges or french cuts went an inch this way or that,Boucher would have been bowled or caught by Gilly, he says. Thats the nature of cricket,and life. It throws a lot of challenges at you. You have got to learn to stand up after a good beating.
Its not an empty statement. For five years after the on-field one,he stood up after another beating away from it. This time around,it nearly cost him his life.
In a pool of his own blood
If ever you needed proof of Lewiss mental toughness,he narrates it with a few scars and a spine-chilling story. Returning to a parking lot off Flinders Street after a late night function held by Shane Warne at the Crown Casino last August,Lewis was king-hit by a group of intoxicated teenagers to the edge of his existence. I had close to $ 600 in my wallet and an expensive mobile phone,but those young blokes,high on anger and other substances,didnt touch it. All they wanted was to brag about beating someone famous. They king hit me from behind,smashed my head against the pavement and ran away, he says. I woke up in a pool of my own blood.
Lewis didnt report it to the police,since nothing was stolen and the chances of catching the rogues was minimal; but in a few days,he started waking up with excruciating headaches. The neurosurgeon told me that there was internal bleeding within the brain. If I hadnt got it checked,it would have been fatal, he says. Following a long pause,he adds. I know someone else who died with a beating like that before.
A murder witness
David Hookes the former Australia batsman and Victoria coach. Lewis,on that fateful January night in 2004,was one of the few witnesses.
Having gone to the Beaconsfield Hotel in St Kilda to celebrate Victorias win over South Australia,Lewis watched the night turn from one of celebrations to mourning within a few insane seconds. Hookes died; bouncer Zdravko Micevic was later acquitted; yet,like with everything else in life,Lewis moved on.
I was there and saw the whole thing. You can call me callous,but I moved on quickly, Lewis says with a stern face. Whatever happened was unfortunate. But if you linger on about it,you are going to carry it for the rest of your life. I prefer to move on.
He sure has,from the most undesirable of situations to the most unenviable of bowling records. But surely,on the cricket field,there must be a few regrets of a career incomplete. He looks puzzled.
Players spend their entire lives trying to get into todays Australian team. I hated the game,got no formal coaching and played with the likes of McGrath,Warne,Gillespie and Lee, Lewis says.
Regrets? Regrets can go take a hike. Im here to fight it out,one sunrise and sunset at a time.