Greg Chappell on Martin Crowe

Martin was the outstanding New Zealand batsman of his era and is arguably the best that they have ever produced.

Perhaps Martin Crowe's greatest Test innings was the 142 against England at Lord's in 1994.   -  GETTY IMAGES

It was Martin Crowe’s insatiable curiosity that struck me on our first meeting. He embodied the old African proverb which stated “The one who asks questions does not lose his way”.

Martin was 19 years of age and playing Test cricket well before he was ready for it against a strong Australian pace attack. He had managed to get run out for 9 in his first and only innings for the Test and, without being unkind, he was lucky to get that many.

It was off the field that he made the biggest impression on me. As was the tradition at the time, the two teams would get together at the end of each day for a few cold drinks and a chat. When Martin came into our room at the end of day one he made a bee-line to where a few of us were sitting and joined the group.

After a respectful wait while the conversation went around in circles, Martin started asking questions of myself, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh. He asked good, insightful questions and was rapt as he listened to the answers.

When it happened again in Auckland and again in Christchurch, I began to take notice of the young man who had totalled 20 runs in his first four Test innings.

It was obvious that he possessed immense talent and athleticism, but it was his intelligence and his desire to succeed at the highest level that had me convinced that he would find a way to express his potential; sooner rather than later.

It took him until his 14th Test innings back in Wellington to make his first Test century. It was achieved with the hallmark elegance that we came to expect from him. That he went on to make another 16 Test tons and finished with a Test average of 45.36 did not go close to telling the full story of his dedication, determination, courage or his talent.

Martin was the outstanding New Zealand batsman of his era and is arguably the best that they have ever produced.

John Reid, Bert Sutcliffe and Glenn Turner were all good players and each had their own strengths. Reid had power, Sutcliffe was classy and Turner was exceedingly patient, but Martin was a composite of the three of them with a dash of flair and an arrogance that all the best players have.

Had Martin been born in Australia, or anywhere else for that matter, I believe his record would have better reflected his talents and would place him in the highest pantheon of batsmen from all countries.

New Zealand pitches in his time were tough to bat on. Often damp, always covered with grass, New Zealand wickets of his era were challenging as the ball darted off the seam disconcertingly. It needed a great deal of patience, a well-honed method that got one close to the ball and an unerring eye to find the middle of the bat consistently in those conditions.

Martin was renowned for his front foot play, but I remember his back foot shots through the off-side as a great strength. It is well known that he drove anything that was slightly over-pitched. This forced bowlers to pull back from that length only to see a slightly under-pitched ball brutally dispatched through the off side with a dismissive flash of an amazingly vertical blade.

I didn’t play against Martin again after his first series, but I did keep an eye on him from a distance as he carried New Zealand batting on his broad and deceptively powerful back for over a decade.

In coalition with Richard Hadlee the pair made New Zealand a formidable opponent during their time. Crowe averaged 55 in the 16 Test match victories in that period which is a much better reflection of the massive talent that he was.

Once Martin became comfortable at the highest level, he played some memorable innings of which his two Test centuries at Lord’s and his 299 against Sri Lanka at Wellington were among his favourites.

Probably his second Test century at Lord’s in 1994 was his crowning achievement. Troubled for much of his career with knee problems, Martin had been out of Test cricket for some time and approached the Test with some trepidation. He need not have worried. Even though well short of full fitness, he made a masterful 142 on a ground which he held in high regard because of its place in the history of the game he loved.

This was one of the many of his innings which epitomised Peter Roebuck’s comment about him that “Crowe could soar like an Eagle”.

The 299, ironically, was his biggest disappointment. He would have loved to make a 300 in Test cricket.

Always a lateral thinker, Martin showed his nous and disregard for convention when, as captain during the 1992 Cricket World Cup, he pushed the hard-hitting Mark Greatbatch up the order to attack and opened the bowling with off-spinner Dipak Patel. Both had a huge impact on the success that the team achieved under Martin’s leadership.

Martin wasn’t always comfortable in his own skin and often made life more difficult than it needed to be during his playing days. Ironically, it took retirement and his subsequent illness for him to explore and finally discover who he really was. He actually quite liked the person that he uncovered.

After his playing days, Martin began a media career with Sky Sports in New Zealand. Once again his penchant for lateral thinking was seen with his invention of Cricket Max which proved hugely popular with audiences and players alike and, in many ways, was the forerunner to T20 cricket.

I had many conversations with him during his illness and he was always unfailingly positive and upbeat. It was during this time that he revisited his autobiography. The result was Raw which was as uncompromisingly open and honest as the title suggested.

His articles on the Cricinfo website were another place where he explored the deep recesses of his creative mind to seek solutions for some of the problems besetting the game. One always walked away from reading these pieces thinking a little differently about the game.

I am profoundly sad that Martin’s life was cut so cruelly short at a time when he had so much for which to live. I feel deeply for his wife and daughter who have lost a loving husband and father who still had so much to offer.

Martin was always highly regarded by his peers, but he hasn’t been as well recognised by the wider population as he should be. Wherever he travels in the next life I am sure they all will be aware that they are in the presence of someone special.

Perhaps in death he will get the recognition befitting the champion player and human being that he was.

RIP my friend!

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