Cricketer par excellence goes far away

Ravi Nyayapati – For Web Edition-Indians level- Ravi Nyayapati

New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman Martin Crowe, diagnosed with lymphoma in 2012, succumbed to his illness on March 3, 2016.

He was only 53 years old.

He stands out as one of the all-time legends of the game and, deservedly, was inducted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall of Fame during the Cricket World Cup 2015 at Eden Park in Auckland.

Despite the greatness of the occasion, the induction ceremony was sombre and emotional, knowing that Crowe was already battling for his life.

Game Changer

Exceptional sportspersons can transform games to new levels.

Crowe was one such individual.

In the early 1990s, New Zealand embarked on a new standard of batting set by Crowe.  The 1992 edition of the World Cup is remembered for one thing – the way Crowe, the Player of the Tournament, batted and then captained the team.

He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1992.

At the tournament, his bold move to give the new ball to off spinner Dipak Patel and move big-hitting Mark Greatbatch up the order had commentators’ notes on conventional rules of 50-over cricket in a spin.

He eventually earned their praise as the strategy paid dividends.

The Great Defeat

Crowe’s heroic Blackcaps dominated the tournament, spearheaded by his batting form, but was defeated by Pakistan in the semi-finals in Auckland.

He chose to bat first, mustering 91 runs off 83 balls to help New Zealand to finish somewhat decently at 262/7.

Nursing an injured hamstring, he chose to stay off the field as Pakistan chased the target successfully.  Ironically, this was the Blackcaps’ only loss of the tournament.  For over two decades Crowe largely blamed himself for the loss.

Crowe, also popularly known as Hogan, was a batsman whose technique was downright elegant, oozing with self-confidence, with a selection of textbook cricketing shots to choose from.

After a first class debut for Auckland at age 17, Crowe made early inroads into the national side as a 19-year-old.  He did this as a complete batsman having perfected every shot in the book.  He was an aggressive hitter but his graceful technique concealed his strike power.  When he finished his career he was New Zealand’s highest run-getter (299), highest century-maker in tests (17) and scorer of over 10,000 international runs.

Chip of the old block

Cricket ran in his blood, following the footsteps of his father David Crowe, a first class cricketer, and his brother, Jeff Crowe, an ex-Blackcap and current ICC Match Referee.   Sporting his trademark headband, he was an iconic figure in New Zealand’s spirited performances through the 1980s that formed part of one of the most successful Blackcaps sides in history.

He possessed an innate game sense. His signature stroke was the one straight down the ground past the bowler, but was capable of shots all around the wicket.

The early recognition of his immense talent was revealed by his appointment as a 21-year-old for English County club Somerset, as a replacement for the great Sir Vivian Richards.  It showed the high class of cricket to which Crowe belonged.

Great Mentor

He remained a mentor for the next generation of New Zealand Cricketers.

He resurrected the career of Martin Guptill at a crucial juncture – Guptill’s second coming has been a direct result of Crowe’s involvement and guidance.

Ross Taylor’s class, in his own admission, is also a result of the influence Crowe has had in Taylor’s technique and temperament.

Crowe’s ingenuity and imagination extended beyond the standard game. He introduced an innovative form of cricket called Cricket Max, a 20-over format two decades ago.

India’s tour of New Zealand in 2002 featured an International Cricket Max game between the two teams. This was to be one of the last Max 20 games after Crowe failed to garner global support for the game.

A year later, the Twenty/20 format debuted in England.

Seeing where T20 is today, we owe it to Crowe for the forward thinking he had at his prime.

Rest In Peace Hogan.

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