Tim Roxborogh: My mate Martin - a kind-hearted, Eagles-loving genius

Tim Roxborogh with Martin Crowe - Christmas 2014. Photo / Supplied
Tim Roxborogh with Martin Crowe - Christmas 2014. Photo / Supplied

It's February or March of 1992 and everybody in the team wants to use the Duncan Fearnley. Only problem is, the team kit for this bunch of nine and 10-year old schoolboy cricketers has just one Duncan Fearnley.

Amidst the mouldy thigh-pads that we had to share, those nasty pre-Velcro-era buckle leg pads and a couple of boxes (never share a box), there's also an old Gray Nicholls, a GM and an SS Turbo like the sort Mark Greatbatch used to use.

But only one Duncan Fearnley bat. And all of us, all 11 of us, want to use it. Not only that, every member of this team wants to bat at number four in the batting order.

I told my great mate Marty Crowe that story one day. I wanted him to understand that the 1992 World Cup was not a failure because we heartbreakingly lost the semi-final, but a triumph because of the man who used a Duncan Fearnley bat to average an otherworldly 114 for the tournament.

A triumph because the man who batted number four for New Zealand had inspired an entire generation of Kiwi kids to want to be just like him.

A triumph because the man who batted number four with his Duncan Fearnley was at that point in time not merely the best batsman on the planet, but the game's most innovative captain too.

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Tim Roxborogh with Martin Crowe Christmas at Lord's during the Ashes in 2009. Photo / Supplied
Tim Roxborogh with Martin Crowe Christmas at Lord's during the Ashes in 2009. Photo / Supplied

Marty Crowe was my friend, one of my absolute best friends. Martin Crowe was my childhood hero and separating Marty and Martin was never really a challenge for me.
Now he's gone, much is rightfully being written about "Martin Crowe", the brilliant cricketer.

I can still think of specific shots he played where he'd hold the pose - normally cover drives - that look as glorious now as they did in the 1980s. Just ask Wasim Akram.

Though as much as I could also add to the cricket-related tributes, here's a bit about "Marty Crowe" instead.

Marty Crowe was kind. When I was back from my OE in 2011 and broke, it was Marty who offered up a room in his house. Then there was the time Pam Corkery, my original co-host on Newstalk ZB's The Two, announced she was leaving the show in mid-2014. Marty immediately rang to wish me well, tell me I'd be fine and insisted we go out to lunch. Like Marty, Pam is one of my best friends and Marty knew I'd be sad at losing her.

Marty Crowe was generous. Once I was at his and Lorraine's house and he asked me what the time was. Despite me wearing a watch, I had to pull out my phone to give him an answer. "Sorry Marty, the watch stopped three months ago and I wear it just for show," I said only slightly embarrassed. "Is that a real Tag Heuer, Roxy?" He always called me Roxy. I gave an evasive answer along the lines of, "What is real?" Marty then asked to have a close look at the watch before instantly cracking up. He always had taste and style and one inspection of my Bali Tag Heuer told him it was a fake. He threw it on the carpet in mock disgust.

Two-minutes later he returned to the room and presented me with an Emporio Armani watch. He wanted me to have it. I couldn't believe it, still can't. It's the only non-fake watch I've ever worn. Truth is, even if it were fake I'd still cherish it.

Marty loved giving his friends gifts. Some of those gifts were life lessons he'd picked up along the way. Lessons of forgiveness, of never accepting mediocrity from yourself, of always striving to be better - no matter what you do.

Marty taught me lessons of love and of letting go of ego. He taught me it's OK not to have everything figured out so long as you're of open mind and open heart.

It's one of the great joys of my life that for about three years in the twilight of his short time on earth we were tennis rivals. When I say "rivals" I should point out he beat me every single one of those 150-odd matches. But he allowed me to think we were rivals; that I could one day beat him. Even when he was sick, we would still go down to the courts and have a couple of sets. We'd talk about tennis, we'd talk a bit of cricket and we'd talk about life.

Then finally in February of last year I won. He felt it was the perfect finale. 20 years my senior and battling the horrid reality of cancer, he was still a genius sportsman. We never played again.

Today I'm thinking of a song. It's a song that randomly came on my iPod when I first heard Marty had double-hit lymphoma back in 2014. I cried thinking he would most likely not live a long life. I was gutted. Gutted for me, but more so his beautiful (in every sense of the word) wife Lorraine and daughter Emmy.

The song was My Man by - coincidentally - one of Marty and Lorraine's favourite groups, the Eagles. It was released in 1974 as a tribute to songwriter Gram Parsons who'd been a major inspiration to the band and had died aged only 26.

As a kid obsessed with popular music, I'd somehow never paid much attention to the lyrics of this song, but now it hit me:

I once knew a man, a very talented guy
He'd sing for the people and people would cry
They knew that his song came from deep down inside
You could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes
And so he'd travel along, touch your heart, then be gone
Like a flower, he bloomed till that old hickory wind
Called him home
My man's got it made
He's gone far beyond the pain
And we who must remain go on living just the same

This will forever be the song I associate with Marty. The lyrics sound to me like a metaphor for how he played the game of cricket. As the words say, the beauty of his play touched people. The pain he'd been in is mentioned, though blessedly he's now "far beyond" that pain. Finally, those close to him will need to go on living. That will happen.

Marty, yet again, let me thank you. There are so many specifics, but let me close by saying a simple, "thanks for everything."

You've been "called home" and I'm putting the Eagles on for you now.

- NZ Herald

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