Jeff Crowe: Former New Zealand skipper who is one of the top match referees in the current era

Jeff Crowe © AFP

Jeff Crowe, born on September 14, 1958, was a crucial member of the New Zealand team in the 1980s. Although he first played in Australia, he turned up to answer the calls of his homeland and served it in 39 Tests and 75 One-Day Internationals (ODI). Today he is an match-referee. Nishad Pai Vaidya profiles Crowe’s career.
Jeff Crowe, born on September 14, 1958 was a vital part of the New Zealand line-up in the 1980s. Although, his younger brother Martin was the more celebrated of the two, Jeff added dimension with his character and grit. Born to Dave Crowe, a First-Class player in New Zealand, it was quite obvious when the Crowes took to the gentleman’s game. However, the elder of the two first plied his trade across the Tasman sea and then worked his way back to represent the land of his birth.

Crowe made his First-Class debut in 1977 while playing for South Australia against the touring Indians. In his first Shield game against New South Wales, he scored 48 and 54. The season ended with modest returns for Crowe. He didn’t play the 1978-79 season and returned during the next campaign. During his return season, he scored his maiden First-Class ton against Victoria. That year, he scored four fifties as well to finish with 453 runs.

It was only during the 1981-82 season that Crowe peaked and scored three tons and two fifties as he smashed 704 runs in 10 matches at an average of 50.28. It is said that he may have had a chance to play for Australia, but chose to focus on New Zealand. In 1982, he turned up for Auckland and soon inched closer to an international cap for New Zealand.

On his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Australia, Crowe could only muster seven runs. A few days down the line, he smashed 56 in his second ODI in a victorious cause for New Zealand. A Test debut followed in March 2003 against the touring Sri Lankans, but he did not have too much of an impact. His first four Tests were not very productive, but in his fifth he scored 52. Later on, in the series against England in 1984, he scored his maiden Test hundred (128).

However, Crowe’s true test of character came when he faced the mighty West Indians on their own turf in 1985. Against an attack comprising Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner, Crowe walked in at number three in the first Test and scored a gutsy 64. In the fourth Test, he got into the act when they were following on and hit 112 to enhance his reputation. That tour had truly shown what he was capable of.

The main problem through Crowe’s career was that his big scores were few and far in between. While there were innings that highlighted his potential, there were numerous instances where he did not convert his starts. An average of 26.24 in Tests and 25.72 in ODIs is proof of it. Here is his career record:

M R Ave 100s 50s HS
Tests 39 1601 26.24 3 6 128
ODIs 75 1518 25.72 0 7 88*

Crowe’s third and final Test century came in alien conditions — in Sri Lanka in 1986. It was his first game as Test captain, but could not sustain that form in five other games he led them. Apart from that, he was a part of two World Cup squads and achieved his highest ODI score of 88 not out in the 1987 edition, where he led them. By 1990, he played his last international match for New Zealand. However, if one looks at the records, one would find that he averaged 40 in all of his last five seasons in First-Class cricket.

Following his international days, he signed off with two successful seasons for Auckland. In his last campaign, his numbers were by far the best of his career. In 10 matches, he hit 1,063 runs at an average of 62.52 with four tons and five fifties. He had the ability to don the wicket-keeping gloves and was a good fielder.

Post retirement, Crowe has tried his hand at numerous things. At the turn of the century, i.e. from 1999 to 2003, he served as a manager of the New Zealand team. He also moved to Florida in the United States of America and ran a business for golfing holidays. However, his cricketing ambitions brought him back and he was appointed a match referee in 2004 and made his debut during an ODI between West Indies and England at Georgetown.

Crowe’s career as match referee has been good. However, there was one blot as he failed to manage the situation during the 2007 World Cup final and it ended in farcical circumstances with Australia all but sure of winning. Crowe and four other officials were banned from officiating during the maiden ICC World T20 as a result. But, he took it in his stride. In 2010, there were rumours that he may come back as coach of New Zealand, but it never happened. He continues to be a match referee to date and has also officiated the 2011 World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka. There too there was an error as he failed to hear Kumar Sangakkara’s call at the toss and it was retaken.

Jeff Crowe: Former New Zealand skipper who is one of the top match referees in the current era

In 2012, Jeff Crowe (centre) became the fifth match referee to officiate in 50th Test match in Bridgetown. Seen here with South African skipper AB de Villiers (left) and Sri Lanka skipper Tillakaratne © Getty Images

Crowe’s service to cricket in his current role is invaluable and such men are the unsung heroes of the game. While people may remember him for his cricketing exploits, his time as a match referee is what gives the game credibility.

In 2012, Crowe became the fifth match referee to officiate in 50 Test matches. He said “I am very fortunate to be in an exclusive club of people who have done 50 or more Tests as a match referee. In reaching this milestone the support and cooperation has been significant from my family, the respected colleagues in the international and elite panel of match officials and the fine people at the ICC.” Crowe has so far officiated in 62 Test matches, 181 ODIs and 45 T20 Internationals.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)