This article appeared in the Herald on January 17, 1996.

By the most fortunate of coincidences, Television New Zealand filled in a rain-soaked hour or two on Monday morning with the highlights of that dramatic win which Jeremy Coney and Ewen Chatfield arranged against Pakistan at Carisbrook in 1984-85.

Some earlier footage from that game showed Martin David Crowe batting.

At the same time, we were trying to put together the words that would be a fitting tribute to the approaching end of Crowe's spectacular career.


On that sunny Carisbrook afternoon Crowe, for an hour or so, unfolded a sumptuous array of strokes, uncoiling like an elegant spring as he sent the ball away to the fence.

Not bothering to run, just standing there like a Greek god, sharing with us his admiration of the stroke.

It was a timely reminder. We have become so used to the thirtysomething Crowe trying to balance the arts of batsmanship against the weakness of that sorely troubled right knee.

When Crowe buckled rather than blazed into a straight drive we made allowances for him, and praised instead the fortitude of a man trying to maintain his place at the top when resting on only one-and-a-half legs.

We watched him labour in the outfield, and hoped that as he stretched vainly for a ball he would have ripped up in his teenage years, he did not cause the whole of that knee to disintegrate.

Until those replays on Monday we had forgotten how very, very good a batsman Crowe had been.

That there had been innings that brushed the stars.

That there were days when he played strokes of such magnificence it seemed impossible that any other had possessed such mastery, such artistry.


Inevitably the question will be asked - was Crowe the best batsman New Zealand ever had?

There can never really be an answer. There are those who still worship at the feet of Martin Donnelly or Mervyn Wallace, for they were exceptional craftsmen of their time.

Can there have ever been any batsman in any country as graceful as Bert Sutcliffe in his early-20s prime, when every innings was like some serene symphony?

New Zealand has never had such an accumulator of runs as Glenn Turner, who spent so much of his time batting off-shore.

And how might we have regarded John Richard Reid had the first half of his career been as spectacularly, muscularly brilliant as the second part?

Like those great old arguments over whether Billy Wallace or Bob Scott or Don Clarke was the superior All Black fullback, the comparison of cricketers is futile for the same reason.

Cricket, and rugby, have changed so much over the past 90 years or so.

Cricket is now a very physically demanding game.

The players may not be more gifted, but they are fitter, more under stress from the physical strain imposed by frantic demands of the one-day game.

Crowe may be the most special, for he had something from all our cricketing heroes - Donnelly's respect for the traditions of the game, Wallace's technical expertise, the occasional touch of Sutcliffe's elegance, Reid's power welded to Turner's patience.

And those giants of the past did not wince under the public spotlight which so often glared down on Crowe.

In this Crowe was a creature of the 1980s and 1990s, his cricket meshed in with a corporate persona, his life under the focus of the gossip writers.

For those of us of the wrinkled generation, this side of Crowe was a puzzle, and for those with perhaps shorter fuses it seemed a matter for vilification.

He seemed to spend as much time in the tabloid and magazine headlines as he did in the middle.

Perhaps the reason was that Crowe, a visionary from his teenage years, had set himself impossibly high targets.

Later, his advisers urged him to project himself publicly, for his own (and their) commercial benefit.

His marriage, and then his speckled start as captain of New Zealand - one of the higher aims from his teen years - further tied Crowe's life in knots.

Ironically, he escaped from this tangle only after his knee injury forced him out of the captaincy.

Was there a favourite Crowe memory.

From dozens, one stands out - his century at Lord's in 1994.

It came at a time when his knee was a problem, he had relinquished the captaincy, was pleasantly relaxed among the team, and he probably felt he might not again reach for the stars.

This was a great innings, an immense display of determination and technique, or protecting his team's interests while expressing his own passion for the game, and all the while hampered by his frame-bound knee.

It became Crowe's final tribute to the game he adored - and being Crowe the traditionalist where better than Lord's to leave your signature upon the game.