Tony Lewis

Tony Lewis

Anthony Robert Lewis CBE (born 6 July 1938)is a former Welsh cricketer, who captained England, became a journalist, went on to become the face of BBC Television cricket coverage in the 1990s, and became president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

Early life

Tony Lewis was born in Swansea, the first of two children of Wilfrid Lewis and his wife Marjorie (née Flower). The family moved to Neath during World War II. After service in the war as a major, Wilfrid managed an insurance office in Neath, and then joined the Civil Service.

Tony Lewis attended the Gnoll School in Neath and Neath Grammar School for Boys, where he learned the violin exceptionally well and was selected for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, as well as playing cricket and Rugby for the school. He represented the Welsh Secondary Schools at cricket for five years and captained them for three. At Christ’s College, Cambridge, he read History in which he graduated as BA and MA.

Cricket career

He made his first-class cricket debut in 1955 at the age of 17, playing for Glamorgan against Leicestershire in the County Championship[4] while still at Neath Grammar School. He was also chosen as a first violinist by the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in the same year. After doing his national service in the RAF, he established himself in first-class cricket in 1960, when in his first year at Christ’s College, Cambridge, he scored 1307 runs for Cambridge University at 43.56, followed by 616 runs at 30.80 when he played for Glamorgan later in the season. He captained Cambridge in his final season there in 1962, when in all matches he made 2188 runs at 40.51, with five centuries. He also topped 2000 runs in 1966, when he made 2190 runs, more than anybody else in the season, at 40.51, including his only double-century, 223 against Kent at Gravesend after Glamorgan had followed on. He captained Glamorgan from 1967 to 1972, taking the county to its second championship in 1969, when Glamorgan went through the season undefeated.

He was the last man to captain England on his Test debut. He led England on a gruelling five-month tour in 1972/73 to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Despite having no Test match experience, Lewis scored 70 not out in his debut Test in Delhi, which guided England to their first victory on the Indian subcontinent for more than two decades. England lost the next two Tests, but Lewis went on to score his maiden Test hundred (125) in Kanpur. He went on to captain England a total of eight times, achieving England’s first Test victory in India since 1951, losing there twice and drawing three times. His England team went on to draw with Pakistan in the three Tests that followed. He was nominated Man of the Match in the Delhi Test and also in his fourth Test, in Kanpur. In the light of his achievements, Lewis was picked as vice captain to Ray Illingworth, when the latter returned from his self-imposed hiatus the following summer. Lewis was asked by the selectors to make himself available to lead the England team in the West Indies on the 1973–74 tour but declined in order to take up opportunities in writing and broadcasting.

Lewis is one of two England cricket captains to come out of Neath Grammar School, the other being C. F. Walters when he was playing for Worcestershire. Walters was nominated captain for a single Test when R E S Wyatt withdrew at the last moment, and captains were always chosen from the amateurs in the team. Walters, by that time, was living and playing in Worcestershire. Lewis, however, remains the only Glamorgan player to captain England and the only one to lead England on a major Test tour abroad. Tony Lewis and Allan Watkins are the only Glamorgan players to date who have scored a century in a Test match for England.

Tony Lewis sat on MCC committees from 1967 (Pitches, Cricket and Registration), until he founded MCC’s World Cricket Committee in 2006 and which he chaired until 2011 when the Club invested him with the highest honour it fell within its powers to give a fellow member, that of Honorary Life Vice President. He was the thirty-first MCC member in the Club’s history to be so honoured. He was nominated the Bi-Centenary President for two years: 1998-2000.

Later Career

Lewis also played rugby union for Neath and Gloucester before winning a blue for Cambridge in The Varsity Match in 1959. Chronic knee trouble, which had curtailed his rugby career, meant that Lewis retired from cricket at the age of 34, but writing and broadcasting had always been his main pursuit since 1965, when he began writing rugby union reports for The Daily Telegraph. In 1975 he was appointed Cricket and Rugby correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph. He was a founding member of the Sports Council for Wales in 1968 and put in long service to Glamorgan County Cricket Club as chairman, chairman of cricket followed later as president and trustee. His broadcasting extended from Test Match Special to the anchor man of all of BBC television’s coverage of cricket, from 1975 to 1999, and he was the initial presenter (10 years) of the popular Radio 4 magazine programme, Sport on Four.

After long service to cricket at Lord’s – committee work from 1967 to 2011 – he created, and chaired for five years, the MCC World Cricket Committee, from 2006 to 2011, opposing all cricket decisions that were led by money, race or religion. He initiated MCC research into the use of both the white and pink ball in Day/Night Test matches. He was MCC President for two years 1998–2000, during which he joined with his predecessor Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie in the work of securing admission to the Club of women members and securing their playing programme while Ch. MCC Cricket 2001–2006. He became, in 2011, the 31st Honorary Life Vice-President of MCC to be nominated by the Club, the highest honour possible to award to a Member.

Lewis turned his high profile in cricket and broadcasting to the benefit of his home country, Wales. He made an important contribution to Welsh golf ambitions by leading the successful Wales Ryder Cup Bid (2010) and working for University College of Wales, Newport, as a consultant for five years. His sporting contribution continued as captain of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club 2012.

Lewis served eight years as chairman of the Wales Tourist Board and as a member of the British Tourist Authority. He was chairman, 2000–2002, of the successful Welsh Ryder Cup Bid 2010 and for a three-year term he was Chairman of the Welsh National Opera Company. He was also a founding Trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre. His first Committee work for the Marylebone Cricket Club was in 1964, and his last in 2011 and apart from being MCC Millennium President, 1998–2000, he chaired both the Cricket Committee for five years and initiated and chaired MCC’s World Cricket Committee, 2006–2011. He led the research into the Television Review System (DRS); with his predecessor he secured a two-thirds majority of 18,000 MCC members to win Women’s admittance into full MCC membership. This was exactly ten years before the 2010 Equality Act was law. Lewis led the research and development of the use of the pink cricket ball cricket ball for day-night Test cricket in order to arrest declines in attendances, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. He chaired and led MCC’s work to erect an iconic media centre in 1998 which won high architectural awards. In 2011 the MCC committee bestowed on him its highest possible recognition for his contributions by making him the 31st Honorary Life Vice-President nominated by members of the Club. During this time he was a consultant to World Sport Group and Windsor (later Longreach) Insurance.

Lewis served a year as High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan for 1998. He was awarded the CBE for services to cricket, broadcasting and Wales, in the 2004 New Year Honours. He was an honorary Fellow of several Welsh universities: Cardiff, Swansea, Glamorgan, UWIC and Newport.

From 2003, Lewis was a consultant to University College of Wales, Newport, and, having returned to live in Porthcawl in 2010 accepted the offices of Captain, Royal Porthcawl Golf Club and President, Wales, of the Lord’s Taverners charity, both organisations among his lifetime allegiances which he still continues. He continued his freelance writing particularly as a weekly columnist for the Western Mail Magazine, launched January 2015 and in a wide range of freelance work.

In 1962 he married Joan Pritchard, who had attended Neath Grammar School for Girls and the Laban Art of Movement Studio in Addlestone, Surrey. They have two daughters, Joanna and Anabel. Both daughters are full members of MCC, while Mrs Lewis is an Honorary Member.