Interviews

2011 Clubman of the Year Andy Lewis featured in All Out Cricket magazine

Written by Chris Stonor. 

The November edition of All Out Cricket magazine carries a feature on a familiar face at the County Ground, with AOC catching up with Derbyshire's 2011 Clubman of the Year Andy Lewis; who reveals his amazing story of over 30 years service to the club despite being visually impaired.

Andy Lewis has been a stalwart employee for Derbyshire since he joined as a teenager in 1981. From groundsman assistant to maintenance personnel, Lewis has helped the club run efficiently and reliably for over 30 years. But what makes his story so remarkable is this: he’s visually
impaired.

Lewis describes himself as “a good con man” for he refuses to allow his disability to affect a fulfilling career. Many members who have seen him work over the years still have no idea of his blindness. He’s never advertised it and only very recently resorted to using a white stick.

His life is one of murky shapes, each depicting a different object whether a wall, door or road. Lewis has never perceived himself in the mirror or seen a cricket match or has any notion what a bat, ball or stumps look like as he was born blind; yet the pleasure he takes from the sport is similar to any fully-sighted person.

There is TV and radio commentary to listen to or a friend at hand to describe a game. His life is one of feel, touch, memory and acute hearing. “I remember in the early days listening to Ian Bishop and Devon Malcolm bowling in the nets. The ball made a fizzing sound as it flew past. I found
that a little scary.”

It’s difficult to comprehend how Lewis carries out his maintenance work but with the help of two youngsters who work under him – his “eyes” as he calls them – his reliability and hard endeavour was recognised in 2011 when Derbyshire awarded him ‘Clubman of the Year’ – an accolade usually given to cricketers. “The club have been brilliant to me. They are amazed by what I can do.” 

The rise of the ‘Health and Safety’ culture has affected Lewis’ job and much to his irritation he must abide by these increased regulations. Climbing a ladder is a moot point.

“When your two lads don’t like heights what can you do? So, I occasionally may climb one to fix the flags. It’s only 6ft up.” And when the suggestion of a guide dog is raised, Lewis dismisses this outright: “A dog can’t climb ladders or carry
large tool-boxes!” 

He often works seven days a week, from 8am to 4.30pm. During Twenty20 floodlit games this can stretch to 11pm; while away from cricket there are conferences and hospitality days to weddings and general events to maintain.

It’s a 12-month job from mending toilets and fixing chairs to picking up litter and emptying bins. Lewis has built strong relationships with Derbyshire players. His favourite is Dominic Cork. He first met ‘Corky’ when a 15-year-old club junior. “The coach wanted to beef him up, so he worked for me during the winter, pushing large barrows of
cement.”

Their relationship is such that whenever Cork sees Lewis he’ll shout out “Watch where you’re going, Lewey!”

Lewis also became friendly with Devon Malcolm after renovating his home, and when the West Indian seamer, Michael Holding, was at the club, he appointed him his ‘bookie-runner’.

Another player who needed ‘beefing up’ was club captain Chris Adams, who worked on local building sites to strengthen his upper body. Today, Lewis regularly maintains the club’s players’ homes. Although a latecomer to visually impaired cricket (VIC), Lewis soon discovered his talent as an underarm seamer.

Lewis travelled with the England squad to India for the VIC World Cup in 2002, but he concedes that “VIC is terribly cliquey. It’s about who you know. It’s very hard to break into a side.” Lewis still plays today after forming a local team. They enjoy an occasional match and practice in Derbyshire’s indoor nets during the winter.

Happily married with two fully-sighted children, what’s the future? “My goal was to achieve a 25-year working career, but I want to carry on. There’s a great buzz around the club and now we’ve been promoted the future looks very exciting. We had lost that family atmosphere. It’s taken over a decade for the staff and players
to reunite again.”

The latest edition of All Out Cricket is in shops now and can be purchased via this link.

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