Martin Crowe- The legend of New Zealand cricket that created benchmarks for excellence

Martin Crowe was the ultimate batsman emerging from New Zealand, establishing records that became the yardstick for excellence in the 21st century for the country.

Martin Crowe is one of the greatest players to have come out of New Zealand. (Image credit: Twitter)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Sep 22, 2021 | 5 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

He faced the bouncer barrage and the ferocity of the West Indies pacers with great style. In Test matches, his batsmanship played a vital role in New Zealand winning in England and not losing a series at home against the mighty Windies. In colored clothing, his brilliance during the 1992 World Cup almost gave his side glory. Prior to that, he missed the chance to become the first from the country to hit a triple century. He battled cancer and a chronic knee injury. But, for most of his career, Martin Crowe symbolized the guts, determination, and punching above their weight factor that made New Zealand a competitive nation.

In a country where Rugby remains the gold standard due to the All Blacks, Martin Crowe stood tall in a sport where New Zealand struggled. It is his exploits in Tests and ODIs that gave the country respect. Crowe managed with whatever resources he had. But, he built a cricketing nation that would compete consistently with the rest of the world.

Martin Crowe’s remarkable 1985

The year 1985 was considered as one of the miracle years in New Zealand cricket. The 80s were a period that saw fast bowling from Pakistan and West Indies intimidate oppositions the world over. Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall were the fearsome brutes of fast bowling. When it came to Pakistan, Wasim Akram and Imran Khan were the masters of swing and reverse swing.

But, Crowe conquered them all in grand style. In the three-match series at home against Pakistan, Crowe’s three fifties saw New Zealand winning 2-0. In the final match in Dunedin, Crowe smashed 84, and aided by Jeremy Coney’s century, New Zealand won by two wickets. Years later, Wasim Akram, who became the ultimate fast bowler in the world, recollected that the most difficult player that he ever bowled to was Martin Crowe. But, his crowning glory came in the West Indies in 1985. During the Georgetown Test, he blunted West Indies’ famous bowling attack to smash 188.

In that entire period, he averaged 45 against the West Indies and 57 against Pakistan. But, 1985 would be a continuation of his brilliance. The series against Australia is best remembered for Richard Hadlee taking 9/52 in Brisbane and ending the series with close to 30 wickets. But, it was Crowe’s 188 in Brisbane and his fifty in Perth that set up a historic series win for New Zealand against their Trans-Tasman rivals.

Performing well in England as well

However, if there was one place where Crowe shone the best, it was in England. In seaming and swinging conditions, he averaged 40 and hit five centuries. He is one of the few overseas players to have hit two centuries at the Home of Cricket in Lord’s. In 1986, it was his century that helped New Zealand draw the first Test in what would be a historic series.

In that entire series, Crowe was solid in the middle order as New Zealand won a series in England also for the first time. The years 1985 and 1986 proved to be exhilarating for New Zealand. It was thanks to the brilliance of Crowe and Hadlee that New Zealand managed to keep winning on the international stage.

The miracle of the 1992 World Cup

As captain, Crowe showed his innovativeness when the World Cup was played for the first time in Australia and New Zealand in 1992. Using colored clothing and two new balls from both ends, New Zealand took the world stage by storm. Crowe promoted Mark Greatbatch at the top of the batting. His aggressive, over-the-top hitting became the blueprint from which limited-overs cricket would be revolutionized. With the ball, he sprung a surprise when he opened the bowling with a spinner.

With the bat, he set the tone by hammering 100 against Australia in Auckland. That knock was the launchpad for New Zealand to go the distance. They topped the group, losing only one match which was to Pakistan. In the semi-final, Crowe was battling a knee injury. He was sure that New Zealand would go into the final. In order to be fit for the big match at the MCG, Crowe decided to be off the field. But, in that period, he handed over the captaincy to John Wright.

At a crucial stage, there was a misjudgment. A young Inzamam-ul-Haq played the innings of his life to knock New Zealand out in dramatic circumstances. Crowe was stunned. The big price was now gone from him.

The hurt of Wellington

For a very long time, New Zealand did not have any batsmen who scored a triple century. Now, Crowe was getting ready to create history. During the match against Sri Lanka in 1991 at the Basin Reserve, records were tumbling. Crowe shared a record 467-run stand with Andrew Jones. He smashed 29 fours and three sixes. On 299, he just needed one run to create history.

But, he fell to the part-time pace of Arjuna Ranatunga and he was dismissed. To date, he remains only the second player in the history of the game to have been dismissed on 299. The other being Sir Don Bradman.

The combined hurt of missing the triple century and the World Cup final in 1992 blunted Crowe’s desire. He played for a couple of years, scoring one more century at Lord’s. But, in 1995, with his knee condition deteriorating, Crowe announced his retirement during the tour of India.

Some dreams fulfilled

However, after retirement, Crowe became a commentator who thrilled the world with his style. His ‘Holy Cow’ exclamation after a big moment became his signature. New Zealand grew as a cricket nation and fulfilled two dreams.

In 2014, Brendon McCullum became the first New Zealand player to hit a triple century in Tests. He achieved it after 23 years of Crowe’s missed chance at the same venue. His 302 against India was series-saving. In 205, under the leadership of McCullum, New Zealand finally made it to the final of the World Cup. What Crowe could not achieve, 23 years later the Black Caps achieved it. The emotion of Crowe being there at the MCG cheering on the Kiwis overshadowed the main event.

Sadly, Crowe died in 2016 at the age of 53 due to cancer. He was diagnosed in 2012 but made a recovery. But, it returned, and sadly, New Zealand lost one of its ultimate stalwarts. His records for most runs in Tests and ODIs have been broken by the likes of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson.

But, for many, Crowe remains the ultimate benchmark for excellence. If there are two people whom New Zealand cricket will forever thank in history, it is Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe.

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