Rawl Lewis – Spin Saviour?

It has come to my attention that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel that is West Indies cricket. Upon hearing the squad that will tour New Zealand next month, it is clear now that there is reason to be hopeful. Among the expected selections of Lara, Sarwan, Gayle et al, the esteemed name of Rawl Lewis caught my attention.

So long has the West Indies searched for a quality spin option, but now young cricket fans can sleep easy in the wake of the second coming of Rawl Nicholas Lewis. Long ignored as the spin saviour of West Indies cricket, Lewis’ procurement of a solitary wicket in his three Test appearances served to throw many off his scent. Indeed, an average of 318 is worthy of the record books if only as the highest of all time. Rawl Lewis is statistically the most ineffective bowler to play Test cricket, and yet, he has been granted another chance to state his legacy.

I stated earlier that young West Indians can sleep in peace with a bit more than a hint of sarcasm, but the reality is that at least two young cricketers will be losing sleep over this seeming travesty of a misstep. Omari Banks and Dave Mohammed have been the leading contenders for the role of a spinner in the regional side for the past couple of years. Neither has achieved much success in limited opportunities at the highest level, but both showed the potential to develop. More notably, both have taken more than 1 Test wicket.

Mohammed has played 2 Tests as compared to Lewis’ 3, but his wicket-per-match strike rate of 1.5 hardly measures against the 0.33 of his apparent successor. The tears of Banks are even more deserved, as his 2.8 wickets per match seem to mean nothing when Test success is involved. The message seems very clear – Banks (23) and Mohammed (26) are not yet good enough, or at least not as good as Rawl Lewis. Why else does one select a 31 year-old failure over promising youths in a team of the calibre of the West Indies?

Should Lewis play in all three Tests in New Zealand, one would suspect that his bowling strike rate would drop as will his average. It would be quite difficult to get any worse than the 585 balls per wicket that it stands at currently, and considering that he would have to be less than a total disappointment to play the entire series, he would have to take at least a wicket per Test match. That seems to be the going rate for success among West Indian cricketers these days – a wicket per Test will suffice for retainment.

Whether or not there are genuine Lewis fans out there, it is time to check the glass as half full. Rawl Lewis may have been woeful at Test level, but his recent achievements at domestic level are nothing to scoff at. Of his 245 First Class wickets, 81 have come in the last 4 years at an average of 27.15. In that time, Mohammed has 88 FC wickets (29.38) and Banks has 117 (37.23). Lewis appears to be the best of the bunch from that measure.

What does he offer as a batsman? Dave Mohammed has 68 runs his 3 Test innings, while Banks has a more impressive 318. Lewis’ Test average of 4.33 has come over twice as many innings as Mohammed for 42 less runs. Enough with this rubbish. Bowlers are picked to bowl, not to bat, and that is where the focus will lie squarely come February.

Rawl Lewis will hope to prove to a world of doubters that he is so much more than a 318 bowling average and a walking wicket. He would hope to show the game the match winning personality that has earned him another gasp. There is every chance that it will work out for him this time, as history shows that he is not the only player to have a rough start to his career. Marvan Atapattu began with 5 ducks in 6 Test innings and Jacques Kallis reached double figures once in his first 7 innings. Nothing is impossible.

I know all about Rawl Lewis and his worth is clear enough that I say categorically, watch out New Zealand, the West Indies has a secret weapon. The ‘secret’ aspect may outweigh the ‘weapon’, but why engage in pedantry when it comes to the sensations of Test cricket? The year 2006 may well be that of Rawl.

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