Like many people of my generation, Martin Crowe was the best NZ batsman I could recall. I was away tramping when he died, and wanted to say a few words, but cricket fan Chis Bishop has made a great post which I’ll just copy:
Martin Crowe was my childhood hero. Almost every boy growing up in NZ has one; Martin Crowe was mine. I missed seeing Crowe in his mid-1980s pomp – I was just two when he tore Australia apart at the Gabba in 1985 after Hadlee had taken 9/52 – and so my earliest memories of him are in the 1990s.
Like many Kiwis the 1992 World Cup is indelibly burned into my mind. I watched every ball of the first match against Australia. England had spanked us 3-0 going into the tournament. Hopes were not high for a New Zealand victory. But on that sunny, heady, day at Eden Park Crowe and his band of trundlers and journeymen played like world-beaters. I watched every ball of Crowe’s 100 not out. He drove McDermott down the ground straight, he pulled Tom Moody to the (very short) boundary behind square-leg, and did it again, and again. In the final over, he back-cut Steve Waugh behind square to get his century, and the crowd invaded the field. He had lit up the World Cup; inspired a team; and made a nation believe. Three hours later Larsen and Latham (!) had strangled Australia’s batsmen on the slow, low pitch, Harris ran out Boon with a 30 m side on throw from deep-wicket, and we had won. I wrote about it in my standard two class notebook, and I kept it for years and years.
After that game the nation went nuts. I can still picture where I was for every game. Our cousins in Upper Hutt for a summer Barbie when we beat England. At home, watching Greatbatch deposit Brian McMillan onto the roof of the biggest stand at Eden Park, chasing down South Africa’s 192 in 25 overs. At another set of cousins’, watching with disbelief as Greatbatch charged Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose (!) and hit them for six over deep extra cover. Dipak opening the bowling against Pakistan. Through it all Crowe was the master – almost impossible to get out when batting, directing things in the field, chivvying his young and enthusiastic team, daring to dream that New Zealand could do the almost unthinkable.
I used to keep a scrapbook of cricket news clippings. I would carefully cut out articles of interest from the Dominion and the Evening Post (separate papers in those days) and paste them into a big scrapbook. I can still picture the large article published the day after Crowe and Jones’ epic partnership in 1991 at the Basin Reserve. There’s a photo of Crowe and Jones with their wives, glasses of champagne in their hands, tired but happy looks on their faces. The scorecard for the test. The list of records broken by their massive partnership. For years and years in my backyard cricket games I would replicate Crowe’s innings – the cautious start, the resolute desire to Just. Not. Get. Out, then the slow build through the 100s as the bowlers got tired and the partnership grew and grew, then the freedom that came in the 200s, sixes off de Silva, breaking Turner’s 259 record, and then getting to 299. What to do? Obviously not the run past the keeper Crowe played. An off-drive? A clip off the legs? Push for one? I always scored 300. Crowe didn’t, and he later wrote about the anger, the agony, the pain. And the redemption, of sorts, when McCullum did it on the same ground, years later.
So many memories.
In his autobiography Crowe talks about the mental demons that come with being a cricketer, a batsmen in particular. One mistake and you’re out. That’s it. Sometimes when you don’t even make a mistake, you get dismissed. The ball that you just have to play outside off that takes the edge – out. The ball that cannons into the stumps when you’re backing up at the other end, with the bowler’s minute touch – out. The bouncer that so discombobulates you the ball ends up in short-leg’s hands off your bat – out. Cricket is a tough, tough game mentally, if not particularly physically. Crowe writes of the fear of failure; the fear of getting out, of missing your opportunity to score runs, to contribute. In schoolboy cricket you only get one chance to bat every Saturday. You don’t want to waste it. I used to try and channel Crowe when I batted – obviously the elegance and the strokemaking (at least an attempt) – but specifically his tricks for dealing with stress. Imagine your best ever innings and replicating that today. Remember how you felt when you were batting. Replicate that today. Get in the same zone. Remember the shots. Replicate. Watch the ball. Replicate. Score runs. Watch the ball. Score.
Later when I did a lot of debating, I used to try and channel Crowe again before giving a speech. Remember that speech you gave three years ago that won that debate? Replicate that. Remember how you felt then? Do it again. Remember the audience response? Do it again. Channel past greatness to inspire current greatness
Crowe was my first idol. The guy I wanted to bat like, to be like, to lead like.
Because I never said it when I got the chance – thanks Martin.