Crowe, a batsman who feared none

Statistics did not count when Martin Crowe batted. His judgement of length and line was absolute. He would carve up the best of seamers and spinners even on pitches that helped the bowlers, who ended up revering his craft.

Martin Crowe was known for his technical brilliance, impeccable footwork and consistency.   -  Getty Images

Bowlers always considered Martin Crowe's wicket as a valuable trophy. And for them, it was no mean feat to gain the respect of one of the most technically accomplished batsmen of all times. Bowlers who foxed him would get instant appreciation on the field, a nod acknowledging a good delivery. And when they got hit, they did not complain. After all, he was a batsman with exceptional qualities, the best in the business!

Admiration for Crowe was universal. “Enjoyed bowling to him always. You had to be at your best to make him hustle,” the Pakistan great, Wasim Akram, once told this reporter. Akram was an epitome of guile with the ball — new and old — but Crowe was a batsman who feared none. Grace and finesse were associated with his batsmanship — a rarity in contemporary cricket — and most opponents graciously accepted his class and dominance in the middle, his technical brilliance, impeccable footwork and consistency.

>Read: Tributes pour in for Crowe

True, he was once hit by Bruce Reid while attempting a pull shot in a Test against Australia in Christchurch in 1986. He left the pitch bleeding but returned after having ten stitches to compile a century that left even the Australians in a trance. That was the kind of tenacity he displayed on the field.

Best starter

The comfort he showed while playing even the wiliest of bowlers was astonishing. Often he faced the first ball as if it were his 100th. He perhaps was the best starter because bowlers don’t recall Crowe being nervous even in tense situations. He may not have passed the double-digit mark in his first five Test innings, but Crowe did score a 299 — the highest by a Kiwi until Brendon McCullum bested it — and signed off his career with a match-winning knock against India in an ODI.

>Read: Martin Crowe — one of a kind

Statistics did not count when Crowe batted. His judgement of length and line was absolute. He would carve up the best of seamers and spinners even on pitches that helped the bowlers, who ended up revering his craft. Crowe was an artist at the crease and would design and build an innings like a master. He courted controversies at different stages of his international career but that did not stop him from speaking his mind. He viewed life the way he batted — fearlessly.

Crowe spent his retirement years writing and commentating on the game until cancer slowed down his pace. One had the privilege to interview him in 1999 in Auckland, on the eve of a Test. When told about this meeting, Rahul Dravid, hesitant to approach the Kiwi, expressed his desire to speak to Crowe. I conveyed the request to an ever-obliging Crowe. Their interaction lasted a while and obviously proved fruitful for Dravid. He had scores of 190 and 103 not out in that Test.