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Martin Crowe: The Kiwi who soared like an eagle

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Last updated on 22 Sep 2023 | 08:14 AM
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Martin Crowe: The Kiwi who soared like an eagle

On this day in 1962, one of New Zealand's all-time greats was born in Auckland

The term “lazy elegance” might be thrown around casually nowadays, but a few batsmen in cricket’s history possessed it. New Zealand’s Martin Crowe was one of them. Born on September 22, 1962, Crowe would set a batting gold standard for New Zealand cricket that is yet to be breached even 28 years after his retirement.

Debuting first in the ODIs on February 12, 1982, a 19-year-old Crowe had the pundits astonished at his perfect gameplay. Equally dexterous in defence and attack, the Auckland teenager was always said to have a little more time than other batsmen. 

A quick glance at him and one would instantly recognize Crowe as a diligent student of cricket-obsessed with making the most impeccable action at any given time. Everything looked inch perfect when he batted, whether it be his defence, attack or stance. 

Given Crowe's arsenal of shots up his sleeves, many deemed him the perfect T20 batsman when the format was later introduced. Almost nothing in Crowe’s movement looked rushed at any given time as he glided with his strokes. Class was written all over him since he took the field.

He would replace the great Viv Richards for English club Somerset as a 21-year-old, which gives one a brief idea of his potential. Former cricketer Peter Roebuck would describe his batting, stating that he could “soar like an eagle.”

Crowe was lucky to have another thinking cricketer as his captain in, Richard Hadlee, during his prime years, as they would both take New Zealand to new heights. Batting in the 80s was a challenge given the bowling-friendly pitches and fearsome, blood-thirsty fast bowlers, and it was during this era that Crowe would rise to his peak.

In the 77 Test matches Crowe played, he scored 5,444 runs at a fine average of 45.36 with 17 centuries, thus remaining the crux of the New Zealand team, home and away. He could play spin and pace equally well and at all parts of the ground. His 299 run-knock against Sri Lanka at Wellington remained the highest individual score by a New Zealander for 23 years before Brendon McCullum tallied 302 against India at the same ground.

A brilliant stroke-playing middle-order batsman, Crowe was a special ODI player who tallied 4,704 runs in 143 matches with an average of 38.55, where he had four tons and 34 fifties. The highlight of his career was the 1992 World Cup campaign, where he led New Zealand all the way to the semis.

Before Sri Lanka found success by deploying hard hitters like Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana as openers, it was Crowe who had tried exploiting the new ball with the aggressive Mark Greatbatch as the opener. His tactics to open the bowling with off-spinner Dipak Patel was also effective during the ‘92 World Cup.

However, the man who truly propelled New Zealand to the semi-finals of that World Cup was Crowe himself, as he would tally an unbelievable 456 runs at an average of 114 that edition. It is hard to believe that Crowe pulled all these while fighting relentless injuries in the process.

Crowe played for almost 13 years through back trouble, torn hamstrings, broken shin and constant knee injuries before one such nagging injury eventually ended his cricketing career on November 26, 1995, with his last game against India.

Crowe would spend time working in the media post-retirement and even wanted to make a comeback to first-class cricket at the age of 48, which didn’t really happen as expected. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in October 2012, and although he would fight it off a year later, the cancer returned in 2014.

In an emotional (farewell) speech in 2014, Crowe announced that he had around a five percent chance of surviving beyond a year. He was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame on February 28, 2015, in front of a packed crowd at Eden Park. 

Crowe’s last wish was to watch the 2015 ODI World Cup held jointly by Australia and New Zealand, and it was luckily fulfilled. He passed away on March 3, 2016. 

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