Martin Crowe enjoyed a 13-year international career from 1982-95, including four years as captain © Getty Images
Martin Crowe enjoyed a 13-year international career from 1982-95, including four years as captain © Getty Images

Martin Crowe was one of the few people I had secretly wished to meet, somehow. Especially after he referred to Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill as sons he never had. How many elite sportsmen have shown such warmth, such affection, such compassion? At best, the junior cricketer is like a Sith Lord’s apprentice, or his best mate. But sons? I kept thinking about it for long. It is a feeling I have not had since I lost my father — someone calling me a son like that. READ: Martin Crowe: The man cricket never caught up with

My memories of Martin Crowe go back to 1984. There was a test in Hyderabad in the winter, and he was probably opening bowling and got two in two when Javed Miandad arrived at the wicket. There was a strong appeal on both the hat-trick delivery and the ball after. Miandad survived and scored a match-winning hundred. I doubt Crowe scored much in that game because until my second memory of his, I kept on thinking of him as a bowler. That second memory came in early 1987. In between, he had scored his two 188s and had played numerous other great innings but my cricket was limited to playing the game in our big lawn, or on family picnics or following Pakistan’s games on TV or on radio. COMPLETE COVERAGE: Martin Crowe passes away

Late in 1986, a big thing happened: West Indies came to Pakistan and by sheer accident, an 8-year-old yours truly learned to read scorecards, the first match being the first one-day of the tour in which Gordon Greenidge, one of Martin Crowe’s favourites, scored a match-winning 67 — a ‘dashing’ innings for its era scored at less than 4 runs per over — significantly slower than a double-hundred he had scored in a chase in England two years earlier. And then I got a whole collection of cricket magazines from an aunt. So my practice began and I read all those scorecards from the 1978-79 India Pakistan series to the 1979-80 one. READ: Russell Crowe, Stephen Fleming, others pay tribute to Martin Crowe

Sometime later, the West Indies visited New Zealand after a horror run in the ODIs in Australia. I knew that because I would read every scorecard — one significant match was that last Test. West Indies shot were out for 100 and then destroyed by none other than that poor man’s Richard Hadlee — Mr Martin Snedden — in the second innings. They still made a fist of it as New Zealand managed to win Jeremy Coney’s last match – as it would turn out, it was the end of the day for Joel Garner and Tony Gray (in Test cricket too – 22 wickets at 17 and not yet 24).

But in between, there was Martin Crowe. It was not a slow innings — the old cricket magazines I had were all pre-Crowe era ones. I knew of John Wright, Coney and Hadlee, but I had to know more about this New Zealand fast-bowler Martin Crowe who was good enough to score 83 against the West Indies, more than any other Pakistani had managed in the series in Pakistan a few months before. I made my aunt read the report in the paper to tell me how many boundaries he hit; there were more than a dozen of them.

In between, I had missed out on the first drawn Test in which he had scored a patient hundred. But anyway, Martin Crowe was now an all-rounder in the book. I think the one-day series was only about Greenidge and Viv Richards. That Richards match was played on a day when we had dinner at my mother’s uncle’s place and I listened to the match report during the 9 o’ clock news. Greenidge hit some big hundreds in the other games and it was over.

My uncle brought for me the July 1987 Urdu Cricketer and that was the first time I started reading anything other than the scorecards and the intimate interviews in the English cricketers. I still have that copy somewhere… tattered and ragged but still readable. And it had an analysis of Martin Crowe — a memorable photograph from the 1985-86 World Series Cup in the beige kit, wearing the black cap playing that signature flick off the hip. I read that analysis and then went through his career record on the same page and it finally dawned upon me that Crowe was not a bowler: He is the best young batsman in the world.

The 1987 World Cup came and I remember three things: he scored a fifty in a rain-reduced match against Australia; there was that 72 against Zimbabwe; and that outstanding running catch going after the ball in the deep to get Dave Houghton out. I remember that 72 very clearly: I came back from school, the TV was running and Zimbabwe had lost something like 7 wickets for under 100, and Houghton was batting. And then they showed New Zealand’s score — Martin Crowe had scored 72. Predictable, I told myself. After all he scored so many against the West Indies! Yes, by that time, I had read about it all in the newspaper archives in the Punjab Public Library close to my place and following two exciting Pakistani wins in England and India had raised my level as a cricket follower.

Time flew. A hundred in Australia, another against England — and then he did not play in India in late 1988. I wanted to watch him and Hadlee live on that grainy Doordarshan footage that we could catch in Lahore from Amritsar through those old TV antennas. Hadlee took, I think 9 wickets in an innings, in a tour match, but Crowe was missing. As it turned out, he had skipped the tour. READ: Sachin Tendulkar pays tribute to Martin Crowe

But he did play against Pakistan and he scored 174 in a Test that started on a Friday and I was caught in the agony of making a choice between listening to the radio commentary describing Imran Khan bowling to him or flying kites. He played in the Austral-Asia Cup match against Pakistan in 1990 but did not do much — New Zealand were all out for 74 in a slow death and I watched it only because I was at my aunt’s house and there were no kids around. I would not watch the Pakistani innings and would come to know in the evening that it was over in no time.

That same year came the series that defined Martin Crowe for me: a highly skilful batsman leading a completely outgunned team. PTV showed the side matches on TV and I remember coming back from school and watching the scorecard that showed that he was bowled for a duck in the first innings. As it turned out, I was busy with sorting out my stamps with the TV running when Crowe came out to bat wearing his white sunhat with that white handkerchief in the second innings and showed a vengeful yet delightful run-a-ball ton in that innings. COMPLETE COVERAGE: Martin Crowe passes away

There were some better innings in a series that Pakistanis won easily (although ball-tampering became the hottest issue once the ball was left to a young Waqar Younis once Wasim Akram got injured). Yet, that 100 remains etched in my mind more than any other Crowe memory from that tour — even his masterly hundred at Lahore pales in comparison primarily because I was out shopping with my mum for its best part and secondly it was far dourer than that side game one.

Then came World Cup 1992. I watched every ball of that hundred against Australia in the opening match, his dismissal against Pakistan at Christchurch, and then that blinder in the semi-final where he exploited that 30-40 metre square-leg boundary beautifully. A year later, he led New Zealand to an ODI series win over Pakistan in a close low-scoring series that was not covered on TV before the news broke that Ken Rutherford, and not Crowe, would lead New Zealand in the Test.

We were travelling to Lahore from Karachi with a night’s stay in Bahawalpur, and that was where I came to know about the first day of the test where Javed Miandad would play his last great Test innings: a masterly 92 on a green-top where everyone else failed. As for me, I would never get to watch Martin Crowe ever again live on TV. There were a couple of ODIs in South Africa between Pakistan and New Zealand and he played just one of them, scoring a fast 83 and that was that. I was 16 then. The days of scorecard-only cricket-following were history. With a year, Martin Crowe’s career was over – in between he somehow managed to score his last one-day hundred — in India.

I became a fan of his writing, often disagreeing with his views but loving them nonetheless.

Going back to what I wrote at the start, not much has moved me more in recent times than reading Martin Crowe’s reference to Guptill and Taylor as the sons he never had. I hope his children are well looked-after and that they do their father proud.

(Kamran Wasti is a mechanical engineer from Lahore with a bit of interest in cricket. He writes at http://grassywicket.com)