Inside Martin Crowe's beautiful mind

By Dylan Cleaver

Martin Crowe was a beautifully uncomplicated batsman freed from a terrifically complex mind. If the ball was full and straight, he drove straight. If it was short and wide, he cut. Short and straight, he pulled.

To watch the highlights of any of his 21 international centuries (17 test; 4 ODI) is to watch an around-the-clock study in technical perfection.


You could spend many words waxing lyrical about the 188 at the Gabba, the one-legged 142 in England in 1994, or the 108 not out at Lahore (which some teammates regard as the greatest of them all), and none of them would be wasted.

But Crowe the man is much harder to write about because, by his own admission, it took him so long to figure it out himself.

In 2006 I was lucky enough to be invited to his uptown Auckland apartment for a chat about a story. He was at the time producing a series for Sky TV called The Chosen Ones, which involved lengthy Ian Smith interviews with such sporting luminaries as Michael Campbell, Danyon Loader and Sir John Walker.

Martin Crowe talks to Bryan Waddle after retiring from cricket in 1996:

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My hook was that he'd ignored the most obvious subject - himself. Destined, it seemed, for greatness since his days as a schoolboy star at Auckland Grammar, if anyone was "chosen" it was Crowe.

Entering the apartment the first thing you noticed was that every available surface seemed to host a self-help book; there was not a novel to be seen. What followed was a revealing and at times downright sad interview.

"From the age of 14 when I was picked for the Auckland under-23 side and then as 12th man for a Shell Trophy final," Crowe, who died today aged 53, recalled, "I was basically given a script that was way beyond my years. Emotionally I was totally unprepared and ever since, I've always been playing catch-up with that emotional stability."

We'd all heard stories about Crowe the teammate: brilliant, commanding and inspirational most days; dismissive (particularly to those whose talent he didn't necessarily rate) on others. On this day he seemed almost embarrassed by his past.

"All I kept feeding was an ego," he said. "In terms of my emotional development I was always three years out of my depth and I've had issues throughout my career with it."

The reality was he had nothing to be embarrassed about. He left cricket, and New Zealand cricket in particular, in a far richer place than when he found it. His bouts of introspection never succeeded in obscuring an unbridled love of the sport and a bone-deep care for its past, present and future.

He turned that love of the game into some of the most perceptive columns written on cricket.

Crowe had occasional disdain for this profession but was also quick to praise work he thought was well-researched and reasoned. A pat-on-the-back note from Crowe was always cherished.

By way of return, any one of us who has ever called ourselves a cricket journalist would have been proud to have claimed lines such as this one on the sport's governing body, as our own: "The ICC, as we know, is an oligarchy. It's ruled by a dictator and two mistaken identities. It is in serious trouble, given the present cast on stage."


Sir Richard Hadlee talks to Mike Hosking about the life and career of Martin Crowe:

Or this, on Brendon McCullum's triple-century, which he described as like removing a stone out of his shoe after he fell for 299 in 1991: "He showed that with responsibility he could seek a new wisdom, a better way, and that a large picture can only be created one fluent stroke at a time."

Or this, on the singular talent that is Kane Williamson, a player he recently anointed as our greatest batsman-elect (and while he is right, Williamson will never have the emphatic presence at the crease Crowe possessed): "Batting suited him from the minute he picked up his first bat; he had the perfect height, balance, fast-twitch muscles, electric feet, an inquisitive mind."

Or this, poignantly, about himself: "Death is something I have contemplated lately, only because the medical experts say it's nearly time."

I could go on, and am tempted to do so, because when Crowe gave you a glimpse inside his life, or the benefit of his extraordinary cricket wisdom, it was a window to genius.

As his long-time colleague and teammate Smith said: "His thinking on the game was sometimes a year ahead in terms of strategy and on where the game was heading... he could see the game unfolding as quickly as anyone I have ever worked with. He could read bowler and batsman's mind better than most."

Crowe took a couple of final walks in public in 2015, both were unforgettable.

On February 28, during the lunchbreak of New Zealand's unforgettable one-wicket win over Australia during the pool stages of the World Cup, Crowe was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame. He left the field with the crowd chanting his name and the tears not quite in check.

The adoration was universal and it was obviously appreciated.

The next time was the New Zealand Cricket Awards, a month or so later, and this time it was interviewer Simon Doull who barely kept the tears away, knowing Crowe's predicament.

Watch: Martin Crowe's moving NZC Awards interview

That night, in a five-minute segment that stretched beyond 15, Crowe was humble, he was funny and his every word was clung on to by the assembled crowd and those watching on TV. We weren't just watching a great of the game, but a man totally at peace with himself.

During that interview Crowe acknowledged that his dad, Dave, was his first cricket hero. He gets to join him now, far too early, in perpetuity somewhere over their beloved Cornwall Park.

Mark Nicholas on the time Crowe smashed a ton against Australia in England two years after retiring

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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