The sheer joy of interacting with Martin Crowe: A pioneer, family man and a fighter
Like many Australians of my generation, I had vivid memories of Martin Crowe as a player. The Kiwis tormented us with three players in the 80's. Richard Hadlee, Andrew Jones and bloody Marty.
"What's taking your fancy this week Dennis?"
"Well, I wrote a piece on stupid cricketing traditions."
"Yeah, I noticed you took a shot at the egg and bacon uniform of the Marylebone Cricket Club. I've got a spare tie of theirs. Would you like one? "
"I'd love one!"
"Well, best you make a hundred at Lord's then. That's how I got mine."
With that exchange on Twitter, Martin 'Marty' Crowe once again proved that he was wittier than I could ever hope to be.
To be honest, I never called him Marty. I felt it too informal. But it's how he referred to himself when reflecting on his past. I first met him, in a digital sense, when interviewing him over Skype for my "Can't Bowl Can't Throw" podcast nearly two years ago.
He was exactly as I expected.
Like many Australians of my generation, I had vivid memories of Marty as a player. The Kiwis tormented us with three players in the 80's. Richard Hadlee, Andrew Jones and bloody Martin Crowe.
It was Martin who Australia admired the most though. Hadlee was the villain, Jones slipped under the radar but Crowe owned centre stage. He carried himself with a sense of assertiveness rarely seen from the fledgling New Zealanders.
He was the Kiwi Sir Vivian Richards.
Perhaps that was how one survived when facing up to Thommo, Lillee, Ambrose, Imran and Akram? When I chatted to him first nearly two years ago, those traits hadn't dissipated. He owned the interview. He guided the interview. It was his interview. Not mine.
Marty was a cricket innovator. An entrepreneur. Yes, with the bat, he could hold his own with the best of them. But that it not what defines him for me. It's not how I think he wanted to be defined.
That rock solid defence and cover drive made from the sweetest honey were nice. But others had that too. It was his mind, and his courage to use it, that set him apart from the rest.
Although Auckland had started the trend a season or two before, it was Marty, who in a global sense, brought us the tactic of opening the bowling with a spinner. With it, he cemented the easily forgettable Dipak Patel into the minds of anyone who witnessed the first game of that 1992 World Cup.
In that tournament, Marty also strategized that there should be, at a minimum, 13 bowling changes per innings. It would hinder the batsmen from finding their rhythm.
When they didn't do it in the semi-final against Pakistan, New Zealand lost. Marty was off the field injured and couldn't command the troops. It was his greatest cricketing regret. As recompense, he was awarded the Player of the Tournament.
Further innovation appeared.
Despite what they may want us to believe, the ECB didn't invent T20 cricket. Marty did. His mistake was that he was about 10 years ahead of cricket administrators being ready for another upheaval in the game.
But these were not his greatest achievements. Neither was his 299 or his role as an extra in the movie Gladiator.
Outside of his family, it was his work as a life coach that brought him the most joy. And it is the side of him I most warmed to.
Not that I ever engaged his services professionally in this regard. But every interaction with Marty brought with it a lesson about cricket and life.
"Are you using your brain Dennis?"
He is not the first person I've heard that line from. But when delivered from Marty, you stopped to think.
"Ashwin isn't in India's best Test XI."
"It's Ash-WIN for a reason Dennis".
He was Ross Taylor's personal mentor after his fateful sacking as captain. He helped lift Ross into one of the best five Test batsmen on the planet upon his return to the team. Only Crowe, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson have ever reached that designation in the history of the world.
Just before the 2015 World Cup semi finals, I asked Marty if he would be at the MCG for the likely Australia vs New Zealand Final?
"No. I won't be attending the India vs New Zealand final."
Unfortunately, that quip also alluded to the fact that things were awfully bad for him. That he did make it over to see New Zealand that one last time is a credit to his fighting nature.
He faced mortality with an openness, self awareness, strength and sense of what was most important in a manner that made us all proud.
He shut down his Twitter account and wound back his brilliant writing for Cricinfo. They were no longer important. They were not his family.
Cricketer. Thinker. Coach. Family man.
He once described me as vorpal. I still have no idea what the hell he meant, but I'm taking it as his gift to me.
Thanks for everything mate.
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