Our greatest batsman: Champion, hero, friend

He was a champion, a hero, a friend. Martin Crowe, New Zealand's greatest test cricket batsman, died in Auckland after a prolonged battle with lymphoma.

The 53-year-old cricketing legend's death was a shock to many, despite his lengthy illness.

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It was palpable in the outpouring of grief from friends, family and the cricketing community.

Crowe's close cousin, the actor Russell Crowe, summed it up for many when he described the batsman as "my champion, my hero, my friend".

"I will love you forever," he added.

Crowe is survived by wife Lorraine Downes, daughter Emma and step-children Hilton and Jasmine.

A statement from his family - headed "God Speed, Rest in Peace" - said he had died peacefully, surrounded by family.

His funeral service will be held at Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral at 1pm on Friday next week.

Tributes poured in yesterday from across the cricketing spectrum.

Warren Lees, former New Zealand wicketkeeper and coach at the 1992 World Cup, said Crowe gave New Zealand cricketers a belief - and changed the game for good.

"He stuck with the task he was so determined to achieve. He was just the most amazing person."

1983 file picture of Martin Crowe acknowledging the crowd after making a century.
1983 file picture of Martin Crowe acknowledging the crowd after making a century.

International allrounder Chris Harris said he was "the guy you always went to" for advice.

"He was a bit of a mentor of mine, someone so willing to help, and he was amazing for my development," he said.

Martin Guptill, who was mentored by Crowe, said he was a "legend of our game".

Crowe's legacy: Explore how he compared with international players

"Not only was he a great sportsman but, more importantly, a great human. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor and friend to help me through the last couple of years. You inspired me to become a better person on and off the field."

One of the finest athletes this country has produced, Crowe made a considerable mark on and off the pitch during a life spent in sport.

His 14 years wearing the silver fern saw the world's best bowling attacks dispatched to all corners by a batsman blessed with a wide array of strokes.

In 1991, he was named New Zealand sportsman of the year and made a member of the Order of the British Empire for services to cricket. Crowe was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame a decade later.

Watch: Martin Crowe's moving NZC Awards interview

Crowe captained his country from 1990-1993, mixing his prodigious style at the crease with a number of innovations, including opening the bowling with spinners, implementing unexpected field placements and utilising pinch-hitting batsmen.

Crowe was born on September 22, 1962, in Henderson. His father was former domestic cricketer Dave. His brother Jeff also went on to captain the New Zealand cricket side.

Crowe played for Cornwall Park and his high school, Auckland Grammar. His first mention in the Herald was in June 1981, when the then 18-year-old made an "astonishing" debut at Lord's for the MCC Young Cricketer - scoring a century with a six to give his side victory.

By then, Crowe had already gained the nickname Hogan - after the protagonist of the TV programme Hogan's Heroes, which Crowe never missed as a child.

A stylish batsman, Crowe made his test debut in 1982 at the tender age of 19, batting at No6 against Australia and experiencing the rare distinction of being run out in his maiden innings.

He struggled early in his career - later saying his international call-up came "way too soon" - and he failed to reach double figures in his first six innings. But his immense talent soon became clear, scoring the first of his 17 test centuries in his eighth test against England.

How the Herald followed Martin Crowe through the years:
1981: Martin Crowe - First mention
1984: 'Hogan' hero with first century
1985: Heroic innings earns NZ dignified draw
1985: Heroes' Problems
1986: Master cricketer in the making
1990: Cricket team aim to please public
1990: Crowe column - The way of things in Pakistan tests
1991: Crowe and Jones break world record: 467 reasons to be celebrating
1992: Win or lose, NZ have done the fans proud
1994: Crowe turned on batting heat after false alarm
1996: Martin Crowe: a batsman who brushed the stars

Crowe's career highlight with the bat will, unfortunately, forever be married to his most regrettable playing stroke, edging behind off Arjuna Ranatunga to be dismissed for 299 at the Basin Reserve. At the time, in 1991, no New Zealand batsman had reached a triple 100, a drought that extended until Brendon McCullum's innings of 302 came 23 years after Crowe's effort and, fittingly, at the same venue.

A year later, Crowe came within one match of captaining New Zealand to their first Cricket World Cup final, thrilling home fans at an event held on both sides of the Tasman. Crowe was the stand-out performer at cricket's premier tournament, being named the best player after scoring one century and four 50s to lead his nation to the semifinals.

Crowe played his 77th and final test in 1995, falling for 15 in the first innings of a draw against India, and, a fortnight later, in his last one-day international, he scored 63 to help his side beat the same opposition.

His career was curtailed by a chronic knee injury and, just 33 at the time, his influence at the crease could have continued but for injury.

Crowe continued to have roles in cricket, either behind the microphone in the commentary box, as a mentor and batting coach to contemporary Black Caps, or continuing an innovative streak by creating the Cricket Max format, a precursor to Twenty20.

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He married Downes, a former Miss Universe, in 2009 following a 25-year friendship. He had previously been married to interior designer Simone Curtice, from whom he separated in 1996. He had a daughter, Emma, with Suzanne Taylor.

Martin Crowe and wife Lorraine Downes at the 2015 Cricket Awards. Photo / Dean Purcell
Martin Crowe and wife Lorraine Downes at the 2015 Cricket Awards. Photo / Dean Purcell

In 2011, at the age of 49, he shocked the cricket community by declaring his intention to return to the first class scene, 16 years after retiring. Crowe turned out for former club Cornwall and aimed to once again play for Auckland but, after receiving four muscle injuries in as many months, he admitted his body was unable to withstand the rigours of the sport.

Crowe of New Zealand on his way to a century against Australia in the opening match of the 1992 Cricket World Cup at Eden Park. Photo / Herald archives
Crowe of New Zealand on his way to a century against Australia in the opening match of the 1992 Cricket World Cup at Eden Park. Photo / Herald archives

In 2012, he announced he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, blaming the illness on an immune system ravaged by the various maladies he endured while touring the world during his cricket career.

A year later Crowe confirmed he was clear of cancer's grip but in September 2014 said on Twitter he had suffered a lymphoma relapse, with his condition seriously worsening in the past few months.


In February last year, Crowe was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame, receiving the honour at the Cricket World Cup pool match between the Black Caps and Australia. He became the third New Zealander to gain a place in the hall, alongside Sir Richard Hadlee and Debbie Hockley.

Before the Cricket World Cup final Crowe penned an emotional column for espncricinfo.com, writing: "My precarious life ahead may not afford me the luxury of many more games to watch. So this is likely to be it. I can happily live with that."



Martin Crowe 1962-2016

September 22, 1962 - born in Henderson, Auckland to parents Audrey and Dave Crowe of Titirangi.

1968 - joined Cornwall Cricket Club, establishing a lifelong link.

1976-1980 - attended Auckland Grammar, becoming deputy head boy in his final year and, in addition to cricket commitments, a wing in the first XV.

January 19, 1980 - made his first-class debut for Auckland v Canterbury at Eden Park, aged 17 years and 119 days, scored 51 in maiden innings.

June 12, 1981 - first appears in the New Zealand Herald, relating to his century for the MCC Young Cricketers in a one-day match against an MCC XI which included former England captain Colin Cowdrey. Crowe was on a six-month scholarship with the Lord's ground staff.

February 13, 1982 - made one-day international debut v Australia at Auckland, did not bat.

February 26, 1982 - made test debut v Australia at Wellington, run out for nine.

January 23, 1984 - made his maiden test century at the Basin Reserve to save the match against England.

1984-1988 - played for English county Somerset.

1985 - named one of the five annual Wisden cricketers of the year.

1986-87 - scored the most runs in a domestic summer (1676 at 93.11, including eight centuries).

October 10, 1990 - became New Zealand's 20th test captain, against Pakistan in Karachi.

1991 - married Simone Curtice.

February 4, 1991 - completed New Zealand's highest test score of 299, a feat that lasted 23 years. In doing so, participated in a world record partnership of 467 with Andrew Jones for the third wicket. Named sportsman of the year in relation to the feat.

February-March 1992 - captained New Zealand to the semi-finals of the 1992 World Cup at home, wins player of the tournament for his inspirational batting and innovative captaincy.

June 16, 1994 - made his second test century at Lord's; remains the only New Zealander to score more than one in 84 years and 17 visits.

July 5, 1994 - made his 17th and final test century v England at Manchester, still a national record.

July 1995 - published first autobiography Out On A Limb.

November 12, 1995 - completed his 77th and final test v India at Cuttack, caught for 15.

November 26, 1995 - completed his 143rd and final ODI v India at Nagpur, stumped for 63.

1995-2002 - invented, developed, marketed and broadcast Cricket Max, the pre-cursor to Twenty20.

1997 - joined Sky Television and worked as a cricket commentator, eventually rising to executive producer by his 2012 exit. Brought regular weekly broadcasts of First XV rugby to screens for the first time, along with other notable documentary series such as The Chosen Ones and The Mantis And The Cricket.

2001 - inducted into the New Zealand sports hall of fame and awarded an MBE for services to cricket.

April, 2003 - daughter Emma is born.

2006 - became the first New Zealander invited to deliver the annual 'Cowdrey Lecture' at Lords, on 'the spirit of cricket'.

2009 - married Lorraine Downes.

November 5, 2011 - returned to club cricket for Cornwall reserves with the aim of being selected for Auckland and hauling in the 392 runs required to take him to 20,000 at first-class level. Fifteen days later the bid was over as he iced a left thigh muscle at 4am on the Sunday morning.

October 2012 - diagnosed with follicular lymphoma.

December 7, 2012 - tweeted he had burnt his New Zealand blazer after the treatment of Ross Taylor after his demotion as national captain, an action he later said was metaphorical.

June 2013 - announced chemotherapy treatment had restored him to normal health.

June 2013 - published second autobiography Raw.

September 16, 2014 - tweeted his cancer had returned.

February 28, 2015 - inducted into the International Cricket Council Hall of Fame.

- NZ Herald

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