New Zealand’s Martin Crowe, who died of cancer Thursday, was a good friend, fierce rival, a tactical genius, writes Australian Dean Jones
Martin Crowe and I played against each other from Under-19. We used to stay together often, at 10 dollars a bed, at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide. We were both very competitive. He used to say, ‘I would score more runs’ and I would reply, ‘No, no it would be me’. And for each innings, the bet was for 10 dollars — the one who lost would pay for the bed.
I was playing for Australia and Victoria Under-19 and he was playing for New Zealand Under-19. And we were playing together in the Australasian Under-19 Championships. It was 1978-79. Of course, you won’t be allowed to have a 10-dollar bed now. But that was how we used to share beds then. It helped us form a good relationship and a strong friendship over the years.
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We always respected each other. We grew up together. He had an amazing sense of the game. His passing away is one of our great losses.
I used to play golf against him, as well. It was just honestly, unbelievably competitive. He loved the sport, really understood its technique. He put in a big effort to study the movement of the body. We didn’t see a lot of each other in the last few years.
It’s sad what has happened. You don’t like one of your peers, whom you have played against, to pass away.
As a batsman, he was technically almost pure, one of the best hookers and pullers off a finger spinner. A tactical genius, the way he started with the New Zealand one-day team, we knew if we got him out, we got half the team out. He was right up there for sure, with the likes of Vivian Richards and Sunil Gavaskar. He learnt a lot of his cricket playing at the MCC academy, where he had obtained a scholarship. He was a player with experience of all different styles and pitches — not many of us had that experience at a young age.
Martin was also a well-travelled bloke. He could be a little complicated, a little dark at times. But he just loved the game — probably at times, a little too much.
He was a fantastic player against reverse swing. He worked that out a lot quicker. I think he actually studied both (Pakistani pacers) Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and how reverse swing came about. He stayed on the leg side and hit the ball. He didn’t move his feet that much. He played the ball very, very late. He actually used the swing to find angles on the leg-side and off.
He was mainly an onside player but at times hit it through the covers as well. He worked out a plan to play full, fast inswinging yorkers that was better than the most. He played against West Indies on some very average New Zealand pitches and made hundreds — big hundreds — against a quality attack. He was terrific.
He played spin bowling a bit like the Indian players. He didn’t use his feet a great deal but had wonderful wrists. He got deep into the crease, and was a ferocious puller of the ball, especially against finger spinners. He used to do that with consummate ease. In one word, I would describe his batsmanship as genius.
I was speaking to his brother Jeff Crowe a couple of days ago and he was saying Martin’s fight against cancer was tough and that he probably lasted a lot longer than most others. It was great that the ICC included him in the Hall of Fame because he deserves every accolade he gets. He was one of the game’s finest and we lost a star today.
Cricket was his game. When he started Cricket Max, it was probably a little bit complicated. But it was a T20-style game that he had. The way cricket has evolved, he wasn’t too far away. I always enjoyed his company. He would get you out of your comfort zone, for he looked at the world from a different angle than what we do and I enjoyed that.
My condolences to his family and his teammates. He was one of our own. Last year, we lost Phil Hughes, a young kid. And now we have lost a great.
(As told to Shamik Chakrabarty by Dean Jones)