Martin Crowe - the James Bond of NZ cricket

New Zealand's cricketing James Bond; that's how former international batsman and commentator Mark Richardson remembered Martin Crowe, whose funeral is in Auckland today.

The clutch of former international players in Queenstown for this week's New Zealand Open golf tournament gathered to share their memories of Crowe, who died of double hit lymphoma late last week, aged 53.

"He could be enormously engaging. He had an aura about him," Richardson said in a tribute recorded ahead of the funeral.


"When he walked into the room he had a charisma. He was our cricketing James Bond in a way but also had a fragility to him. At times that would get exposed. But you have to forgive him for that because he had lot of passion."

One particular memory for Richardson relates to his self-confessed dislike of batting, even though he averaged 44.77 as an opener in 38 tests.

''(It was) full of pressure, a lot of failure, a lot of self doubt. Every time I went to talk to Martin about batting, I would leave wanting to go out in the middle, right then and there, such was his enthusiasm and passion for the skill and art of batting.

''He wasn't your typical hard New Zealand boys don't cry (type), and he could help you through those times."

Former test bowler and commentator Simon Doull rates Crowe as in the top three players ''I ever bowled a ball to, and the best player I ever played with".

Doull didn't shy away from pointing out Crowe could be ''a very combative bloke".

''If you got along with Martin...was friends with him, had a massive dustup with him at some stage.

''He probably had a lot of regrets throughout his career and came to terms with that later in life. He built a lot of bridges he'd probably burned earlier in his life," Doull added.

England's champion allrounder Ian Botham already had something of a hellraiser reputation when the young Crowe arrived to play for Somerset with him.

Botham offered him lodgings at his house until he got settled in Taunton.

"A few days later a letter arrived from his Mum," Botham said.

"Are you sure you should be in that house with him?' That went down well," Botham quipped.

Describing Crowe as New Zealand's greatest cricketer, Botham said it was not long after their first meeting that he realised ''this kid can play".

Botham believed Crowe's 299 against Sri Lanka in 1991 was ''probably his highlight in some ways and biggest disappointment in others".

Botham said Crowe approached his illness ''full on, and I wouldn't have expected anything else from Hogan. He never pulled punches. Although we all knew this was probably going to happen, it doesn't soften the blow."

Recently-retired New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum believes the memories of the 1992 World Cup, and Crowe's performances ''will stay with me my whole life".

McCullum described Crowe as a mentor for a lot of cricketers in New Zealand.

''For me, he was always an idol. What he did, you looked at and thought 'jeez if you could achieve 10 or 20 percent of what he did then you'd have a pretty good career."

McCullum said New Zealand, under him, tried to replicate some of what Crowe had achieved as a skipper.

''A lot of our tactics and innovations were almost casting back to when he was in charge of the New Zealand team."

Stephen Fleming had high praise for Crowe's influence on his career. The pair played together for New Zealand for the first couple of Fleming's years in the national team.

He recalled Crowe marking out statistics and goals for the younger man to aspire to.

''He was very meticulous. His passion for cricket was contagious and I was lucky enough to get that bug from him. He made me want to play the game, and that's a pretty powerful thing."

Fleming had posters of the classic Crowe drive and the Hadlee appeal on his wall at home.
''They were the pictures that inspired me to play."

Fleming said he believed Crowe's legacy was in taking New Zealand to new heights - ''creating a generation of players who wanted to play and succeed in raising the bar."

Fleming said Queenstown, where he first spent time with Crowe, was a place he was at ease in.

''A lot of the time he wasn't. He was either fighting the media, or with himself or opposition or even team mates.

''He would voice his views and would get frustrated when people couldn't buy into what he was seeing, his vision for the game and how it should be played."

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