Published: 24th October, 2020
October is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements and contribution of black people to society.
Surrey County Cricket Club are this month honouring the achievements of some of the finest Black players during the Club’s 175 years.
Richard Spiller profiles some more of the best in the second week of a three-week series. Click here to read the five players covered last week.
A towering presence at 6ft 6in, armed with the pace and bounce required for sustained success, Tony Gray was set to join the list of great fast bowlers from the West Indies.
Recruited by Surrey with a month gone of the season in 1985 to answer an injury crisis, the Trinidadian – then 22 – claimed 79 wickets from 19 County Championship outings. For the next two seasons he dovetailed with Sylvester Clarke as the overseas spearhead at The Oval, making his debut for West Indies in both Tests and ODIs.
A broken wrist while preparing for the 1987 World Cup proved a turning point for Gray, whose career was further interrupted by a series of injuries. Gray left Surrey after a troubled 1988 campaign and although a brief return came two years later, he found the competition from Pakistan speedster Waqar Younis too stiff.
A haul of 22 wickets in just five Tests, costing 17 apiece, and 451 first-class victims at 22 suggest he could have achieved so much more, colleagues suggesting a lack of self-belief prevented him from fulfilling that early promise.
Bursting on to the first-class scene in 2007 as an 18-year-old studying at Dulwich College on a scholarship after being spotted playing in Barbados, Chris Jordan immediately had people asking whether he would play for West Indies or England.
The all-rounder made a dramatic impact for Surrey and appeared to have everything but injuries stalled his progress and it needed a move to Sussex in 2013 to reignite his career. Since then Jordan has gone on to play for England in all three formats, establishing himself in the white ball side.
His batting and seam bowling are invaluable, his fielding and catching truly world-class, while he has become a popular and valued figure in T20 leagues around the world.
Few cricketers have experienced the highs and lows of Chris Lewis, both on and off the field.
Capable of bowling with pace and movement, a stylish batsman and sublime fielder, he was unfortunate to be one of many hailed as the “new Botham” in the 1990s, when a struggling England team were often seeking salvation.
Making his Test debut just three years after arriving on the first-class scene – Lewis was born and spent his childhood in Guyana – underlined the excitement he engendered, so his 32 Tests and 53 ODIs over eight years spoke of underachievement, the highlight coming in helping England to the 1992 World Cup final.
For Surrey, his arrival in 1996 – following spells at Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire – came when the county had not won a trophy for 14 years. Lewis was a key figure in ending that drought as the Sunday League trophy that season was followed by the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1997. Then he was back on the road, returning to Leicestershire and helping them to the County Championship in 1998 but his international career withered away and his career declined, a brief spell back at The Oval coming in 2008.
Rarely a stranger to controversy, Lewis’s life plunged into a new crises when he was sentenced to 13 years in jail for drug smuggling in 2009, serving half his sentence and resolving, on his release, to using his experiences to help cricketers avoid the pitfalls which have afflicted his life.
There were few more exciting batsmen to watch in English cricket in the 1980s than Monte Lynch.
An early childhood spent on the east coast of Guyana was followed by moving to live in Surrey, making his first-class debut aged 19 at a time when he remembers the county squad being fitted out in gaudy brown tracksuits. When Lynch was in his prime, despatching some of the fastest bowlers in the world with elan, it never paid to be late back from lunch.
His best form in the mid-1980s coincided with a lengthy ban for having joined the West Indies rebel tour of South Africa in 1983-84 and ended his brief career with Guyana too. When was available again, England picked him for three one-day internationals against West Indies in 1988, which proved unsuccessful, and he might well have been given further opportunities but for a broken and dislocated ankle a year later which would limit his movement on a long-term basis. After leaving Surrey after the 1993 season, Lynch extended his county career – which brought 18,235 first-class runs and 367 runs mostly pouched in the slips – with two more years at Gloucestershire and remains a familiar figure at the Kia Oval.
His coaching career has taken him to Royal Grammar School in Guildford, a variety of posts around the world and, most recently, the London Schools Cricket Association.
There seems nothing that Ebony Rainford-Brent cannot take in her stride.
Being brought up in Herne Hill with three brothers was ideal preparation for the challenges facing a talented sporting all-rounder, which included having to conquer back problems so serious that it delayed her university studies and saw her advised to give up the game by doctors.
The reward for her singlemindedness was a career which took her all the way from Surrey’s academy – and later captaining the county side – to making 22 ODI and seven T20 appearances for England, a member of the national side which won the 2009 World Cup in Sydney.
Rainford-Brent’s influence has grown even greater since she retired from the game, her important work for the Chance to Shine and Lord’s Taverners charities followed by becoming director of women’s cricket in Surrey and spearheading the African Engagement Programme (ACE) designed to encourage Black youngsters to take up the game.
All of which is topped by being a regular member of the Sky Sports and Test Match Special teams in a burgeoning media career.