Music now quiet for Marty

By Paul Lewis

As he fought his cancer, Martin Crowe turned to then Herald on Sunday sports editor and cancer survivor Paul Lewis. Here, Lewis pays tribute, and shares a moving story about Crowe and wife, Lorraine Downes.

There were always two distinct sides to Martin Crowe - the graceful batsman of impeccable style and the passionate, emotional man who wore his heart firmly on his sleeve.

Some found the latter his Mr Hyde to his cricketing Dr Jekyll, as one unauthorised biography called Tortured Genius, tried to show. The two sides of Crowe joined to create a complex human being who simply, unremittingly, loved cricket.

Crowe's fluid batting style was achieved because of, not in spite of, the intensity of his approach, and his passion for the game sometimes led him to feeling frustrated with those he felt did not see the game as clearly as he.

Those who have read his contributions to cricinfo saw a commentator par excellence - analysing not just what was happening in the modern game but what should be happening, skilfully combining the heart and spirit of the game with innovative thought.

He saw the cancer that eventually robbed him of life as a result of all that deep feeling.

At the launch of his book Raw, an update of his life post-cricket, he was overcome by emotion as he talked about that life, his illness and a new way of looking at things. Cricket and the depth of feeling he had about it had caused stress - cancer-causing stress, he said. So there would be no more cricket in his life.

Of course, he couldn't do it, unable to resist adding to cricket's debates - and it looked for a time the lymphoma had been conquered.

He approached his cancer as if preparing for a big knock in the "second innings", as he called his post-cancer time. In cricket, he'd research bowlers, field settings, grounds, every little thing. He did the same with the disease.

He rang, arranging a meeting in a Newmarket coffee shop. He knew I'd survived a bout with cancer and wanted to know all about my experience - how I'd handled it, how those around me coped and any advice I had.

He was planning his campaign.

We talked about chemotherapy; he didn't like what it did to him. He listened intently when I mentioned I had taken a lead from others I'd known with cancer who benefited from a positive mindset - not happy-clappy, mystical stuff but a just-get-on-with-things, don't-give-in-to-the-bastard approach.

He liked that.

We went over the road to see a mate who ran a wine business, had a glass of excellent red wine and chatted wine for a while.

In cricket, he'd research the bowlers, field settings, grounds, every little thing. He did the same with the disease.

You could tell he was hesitant about the impending struggle but his dignity stood firm.

If he didn't quite pull cancer to the fence for four, it's fitting he saw last year's World Cup.

It was in the 1992 cup he made his deepest mark.

He scored 456 runs at an average of 114 and was named player of the cup. His leadership of the Black Caps was superb.

His 81 not out against the West Indies may have been his finest moment; Crowe later called it his best knock, a run-a-ball against an the likes of Curtly Ambrose and Malcolm Marshall at Eden Park.

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His batting routine will be well remembered, concentrating, always concentrating ... A still head, the whisper to himself to "watch the ball", the quick footwork (there have been few better players of the pull shot and no one who made it look as graceful as Crowe; his straight drives were nearly always exquisitely timed). Think Kane Williamson's pull shot and Martin Guptill's lofted straight drives ... then add extra elegance.

His test innings of 299 against Sri Lanka was the year before - part of a world-record partnership and an innings which begged for him to achieve the never-before-by-a-Kiwi mark of a test 300. His dismissal seemed a painful injustice in what should have been a career-defining landmark.

Crowe said later: "It's a bit like climbing Everest and pulling a hamstring in the last stride."

You knew - you just knew - he spent many a quiet moment beating himself up for missing the 300, even before confessing it when Brendon McCullum became the first Kiwi to pass 300: "Not a week would go by when I wouldn't be reminded of the one run I craved so much.

"It tore at me like a vulture pecking dead flesh. I did not know how to let it go, could never laugh at the absurdity of my anger. Ultimately it contributed to a dislike of myself and to a notion that I was not worthy enough.

"I was desperate to be liked and I thought scoring big hundreds would suffice. I even thought one more run would be enough.

"I was staggeringly naive to think so. I missed the entire point of life, how it should be appreciated."

Did cricket-induced stress cause his cancer? Maybe, maybe not. Crowe loved cricket in a way many professionals don't. It was in his blood. The lymphoma would have had a hell of a job overcoming it.

He also loved Lorraine Downes, with whom he seemed to find special happiness. Keith Quinn once told the story of how they had invited him home to watch an All Blacks test.

The game began with all of them on the couch. Lorraine disappeared. Then Marty got up, leaving Quinn on his own. He got up to investigate and found them dancing in the kitchen. No music, just dancing.

His batting was the same; we couldn't hear the music but he could and he got his feet working to it. Let's leave him there in the kitchen with Lorraine, shall we? No music - just dancing.

- Herald on Sunday

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