One of the best cricketers New Zealand has ever produced died today after a losing battle against cancer. Scotty Stevenson remembers Martin Crowe.
For people of my generation, Martin Crowe was everything we wanted to be. He was a calculated-yet-cavalier, disciplined-yet-dashing batsman who feared no attack. He wore headbands under his helmet, and stood tall on the field. He was a captain, a leader, a touchstone and a tremendous cricketer. One who deserves his place on the short but growing list of New Zealand’s best.
His era, rightly or wrongly, was defined by the 1992 Cricket World Cup, and in some ways his life was defined by that tournament, too: it was all over too soon. However, Crowe yearned to leave a legacy, and his unorthodox captaincy and incredible batting during that magical summer quickly became the benchmark for all leaders who have led a New Zealand side out to the middle. There is little doubt Crowe’s style has impacted on all who have followed.
Martin Crowe was not without flaws. He could be hugely sensitive to criticism and was famous for a ‘with me or against me’ mindset that remained with him long after he put away the whites and the bats. He once stormed out of a commentary box during a cricket test, after a verbal altercation with a colleague and former teammate, and as a television executive, he could be deeply intractable.
That said, he knew how to play to his strengths: he was driven by an inner restlessness of a terrifying magnitude, which may partly explain why he thrived in chaos, and reveled in both minor and major revolutions. Life was a very serious game to Martin Crowe, and he felt he was born to lead.
His cricketing statistics speak for themselves. He was a superstar and he was admired around the world for his shotmaking and subtle-yet-swaggering bravery at the crease. There will not be a former teammate or current New Zealand cricketer alive today who would argue that Crowe wasn’t, in his own way, a genius of the game.
After his playing days, Crowe remained close to cricket. He loved it, and he enjoyed his place within the sport’s history. He served with New Zealand Cricket in a variety of roles, but none seemed to last. Diplomacy was not a strong point, and politically, he could be guilty of misjudging his numbers. But he always had an opinion and whether you liked what he had to say or not, you could not help but admire his tenacity.
He deserves credit for helping to create the pre-conditions that led to the explosion of Twenty20 Cricket. His Cricket Max concept was ahead of its time in every way. He also deserves credit for his faith in First XV Rugby as a popular television concept. He was in charge of the project from its inception until his departure from SKY Television, and his vision and passion for it ensured its early and continued success.
There will be genuine sadness today at news of Martin Crowe’s premature death. Just last year he walked out to the middle of Eden Park, during a Cricket World Cup, and straight into cricket’s Hall of Fame. That moment meant so much to a man who once scored 299 in a test against Sri Lanka. What he would have given for one more run. What he, and those who survive him, would have given for one more year.