Editorial: Crowe, master batsman, lived for perfection

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The pursuit of perfection.

If you are searching for a phrase which encapsulated Martin Crowe, cricketer, that would do nicely. It was what drove him through a career in which he became New Zealand's best batsman and, for a time early in 1992 when New Zealand were jointly hosting the World Cup, arguably the world's finest.

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Crowe was never content with "pretty good" performances. When he was dismissed for 299 against Sri Lanka at the fag end of the final day of a test in Wellington in 1991, he was livid. No New Zealand batsman had made 300. Destiny was a single run away and he'd blown it.

Late in 1987, Crowe reluctantly fronted an impromptu press conference in the foyer of the Hilton Hotel in Melbourne. He had made 82 and 79, had two centuries for the taking, yet both eluded him. He had, however, become the first player in over 40 years to score more than 4000 first-class runs in the year.

He prevaricated, the frustration at what he had not achieved wrestling with what he had. He poured out his emotions, his batting raison d'etre. Why, he pleaded, could he not meet his own expectations - even if he far exceeded those of others?

How good was he? Crowe possessed the one quality which only the best have in any sport: time.

At the crease Crowe filled it. He looked the part, a classic strokemaker with sleeves buttoned at the wrist, a big man capable of utterly dominating the best on his day, and there were many of them. His mastery of the on drive, a difficult shot to play well, was as good as anyone's; his pulling of short balls powerful and precise.

He overcame a rough introduction to test cricket at 19 against Australia in 1982, figured out that, yes, he did belong and set about changing the way New Zealand was viewed as a cricket nation.

Leading New Zealand to the semifinals of the 1992 World Cup left the country with abiding memories and him a cherished place in the game.

Crowe could be demanding on more than just himself. He admitted in his younger years, he could be headstrong, difficult, not the easiest teammate.

He was a fiercely proud New Zealander, an innovative thinker on the game. You could walk away from a conversation with Crowe scratching your head; equally you could marvel at the clarity of his ideas.

Former Australian captain Allan Border yesterday talked of how he'll miss Crowe's "quirky, intelligent humour". He also described Crowe as being "as good as I've seen". High praise indeed.

Crowe had much to offer the game but has been cut down by an insidious disease which would not go away. For a time, he went into remission before the lymphoma returned a final time.

He received his cap and entry to cricket's hall of fame on a sunlit Eden Park, where so many of his good days had taken place, during the World Cup match against Australia last year. A full house saluted him one final time before he took his leave, a final, solitary walk into the shadows.

His contribution to New Zealand cricket has been immense. The game, and New Zealand sport, is the poorer for his passing.

- NZ Herald

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