"Well, he was never going to be a foot soldier, was he?"

And with that brief moment of levity, teammate, colleague and most of all friend Ian Smith summed up the life of Martin Crowe perfectly.

Smith was referring to Crowe's not-quite-Oscar-winning performance as an extra in Gladiator. In the movie that elevated cousin Russell, a pallbearer today, into the Hollywood stratosphere, Crowe played a Roman senator.

He would have made a good senator: upright, elegant, devoted to the cause -- maybe too much so for his own wellbeing.


"He was a terrific leader of men," Smith said.

Read more:
'I will forever be grateful to my beautiful man' - Martin Crowe farewelled in emotional service
Black Caps captains pay respects to Crowe
Martin Crowe's widow, Lorraine Downes, shares heartfelt message ahead of funeral service

In the week since Crowe's death at 53 from double-hit lymphoma, the cricket world has seen an outpouring of love and respect for a man who remained utterly devoted to the sport from the day he filled in for older brother Jeff's team as a 5-year-old who couldn't run between the wickets because his pads were too big.

The path of brotherly love ran deeply, but not always smoothly. Standing in as an umpire one day, Jeff told Martin not to worry if he got hit on the pads. Third ball, still on zero, Crowe the Younger was struck on the pads and before he had the glance to look up the Elder's finger was pointing ramrod straight into the air.

The drive home out west that day would have been fraught.

Ian Smith talks to The New Zealand Herald's Andrew Alderson after today's funeral service for Martin Crowe concluded in Auckland.

Jeff, four years his senior, was perhaps the greatest spur to Martin's greatness. The battles were fierce growing up in Grendon Rd, where the city meets the bush in Titirangi. Snooker balls and, on one occasion, a cheese slice were used as weapons when results didn't go the right way.

Jeff was Martin's yardstick as he followed him through Auckland Grammar and into the First XI, but it was the latter who developed into an all-time great.

Such was the timelessness of Crowe's technique and presence, the highlights of his 142 at Lord's were played and elicited a standing ovation at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The accolades for Crowe's brilliant career have been abundant. Had he played today, with better bats, better wickets (certainly in New Zealand, anyway) and, arguably, less hostile attacks, the accepted wisdom is he would have averaged at least five more runs per innings, taking him above 50 -- the global benchmark for greatness.

But despite the presence of the cricketing cognoscenti, today was about much more than dressing room tall tales.

This was a day when friends and family celebrated the man, not just the player.

Bruce Edgar talks to The New Zealand Herald's Andrew Alderson after today's funeral service for Martin Crowe concluded in Auckland.

A big man, in every respect, who filled the room as easily as he did the crease; who liked to laugh, and loved to love.

The cancer that took him "also saved him", said Lorraine Downes, his wife. If that looks stark in black and white, fear not, everybody knew what she meant.

Dion Nash talks to The New Zealand Herald's Andrew Alderson after today's funeral service for Martin Crowe concluded in Auckland.

A restless soul, in his final years Crowe found peace, first with himself and then with all those close to him. In the words of Jeff, he was a bold and beautiful brother, a loving and caring father to Emma, a son of substance and a magnanimous mate.

And never, ever, a foot soldier.

Former New Zealand cricket captains Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming today paid their respects to former teammate and fellow Black Caps captain Martin Crowe with a discreet and touching tribute at the New Zealand Open golf tournament in Queenstown.