Cricket: Batting with master was always a delight

John Wright played 58 tests and 100 one-day internationals with Martin Crowe. He reflects on the man he describes as “our greatest batsman”
If ever a cricketer deserved to win the World Cup, it was Martin Crowe in 1992. Photo / PHOTOSPORT
If ever a cricketer deserved to win the World Cup, it was Martin Crowe in 1992. Photo / PHOTOSPORT

Over years watching and playing cricket, there are batsmen you never forget - not so much for their numbers, but the way they play. They are the special ones.

Viv and Barry Richards and Greg Chappell come to mind, and more recently Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and perhaps Adam Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag.

Martin Crowe belonged in that elite group.

His balance and footwork resonated. I loved the way he pounced on anything short or used the full face of his bat with punched straight or on-drives. He played all types of bowling outstandingly. It didn't matter who he played, he put bowlers under pressure from the start. In turn, that made life easier for anyone at the other end. Batting with Martin was a joy.

At his peak between 1985 and 1991, he scored 3391 test runs, including 12 centuries, and topped the world test batting averages, scoring at 58.46.

Batsmen below him were Allan Border, Dilip Vengsarkar and Javed Miandad.

Perhaps his most defining series was here in 1987 against the West Indies. There was an edge to the build-up, given he replaced Joel Garner and Viv Richards as Somerset's overseas player. They were out to prove a point.

Their attack also included Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Tony Gray at various times. They all went after him. Martin scored centuries in the first two tests and 85 in the third. He averaged 65.60 for the drawn series, but it wasn't about the numbers. It was the manner in which he carried the attack to their formidable pace quartet.

It was batting of the highest calibre, the finest I have observed by a New Zealander. In our first test partnership at the Basin Reserve, it was like watching concrete setting at one end and a renaissance sculptor working at the other.

The 1992 World Cup did not have a happy ending for any of us New Zealanders. Some days and games in professional sport are hard to get over, like the semifinal loss against Pakistan when Martin was off the field after suffering a hamstring injury while batting. Whatever we tried, we just couldn't break the partnership between Inzamam-ul-Haq and Miandad until it was too late.

Afterwards, Martin's frustration and disappointment was entirely understandable given I was handed the captaincy with about 10 minutes to spare at the change of innings. But I had known him since he was 15, so it wasn't really an issue. He was just passionate.

John Wright
John Wright

He had such a brilliant tournament, scoring 456 runs at an average of 114. If ever a player deserved to win a World Cup, it was him. We were all pretty cut up, not just for ourselves, but for him. We had such great support and desperately wanted to take that final step for him and our country.

However, time heals and you move on. During my brief stint as Black Caps coach, he communicated regularly, particularly before the 2011 World Cup in India. He was such a clear thinker and analyst of the game.

One example was his simple advice of always ensuring your best players were positioned to allow them the maximum opportunity and impact. It rings so true in all formats, but particularly T20.

He was ahead of his time. The evolution of Cricket Max to T20 cricket is testimony to that. His idea for a world test championship is badly needed if the game is to stay relevant.

Recently I read how he would like to be remembered: "He cared. He served. He offered his wisdom. He had a good heart. He laughed. He learned. He loved. He lived."

Hogan was a wonderful team-mate, a fine leader and our greatest batsman. He will always be remembered. RIP.

- Herald on Sunday

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