Martin-Crowe

Born September 22, 1962, Martin David Crowe is regarded as the greatest batsman and captain in the history of New Zealand. An imaginative leader, Crowe holds the record for maximum Test centuries for the Black Caps. On his 55th birth anniversary, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 14 interesting facts about the man who came close to winning the world cup for his country almost singlehandedly.

1.  All in the family

Besides Martin, there were two more players in the family. His father Dave Crowe played for Canterbury and Wellington.  His elder brother Jeff Crowe represented New Zealand in 39 Tests and 75 ODIs. He was also the skipper of the Kiwi side and at present is a well known ICC match-referee.

2.  Debut

Crowe made his Test debut at the young age of 19 against Australia at Wellington in 1982. Earlier that month, he made his One-Day International (ODI) debut against them. Though he couldn’t do much in those games — 9 on Test debut and did not bat in his ODI debut — he built a reputation of being one of the best young batsmen in world cricket in the days to come.

3.  Most hundreds

Crowe holds the record of most Test hundreds for New Zealand. He has scored 17 Test tons for his country.

4.  Record partnership

In February 1991, Crowe, along with Andrew Jones, added 467 for the third wicket against Sri Lanka at Basin Reserve, Wellington. It was the all-time partnership record for any wicket back then, only to be broken by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in 2006, when the two added 624 runs for the third wicket against South Africa at Colombo. Crowe and Jones are now placed second on the list behind them.

5.  The Nearly-Man

Crowe narrowly missed out on becoming the first New-Zealander to score a Test triple ton, when he was dismissed on 299. Brendon McCullum later became the first triple centurion for the blackcaps, when he scored 302 against the touring Indians at the same venue, where Crowe’s 299 came, in 2014. Crowe remains the only batsman in Test history to be out on 299. Don Bradman had once scored 299 not out.

6.  1992 World Cup heartbreak

Crowe had a golden run in the 1992 world cup, where he scored 456 runs in 9 matches at an astounding average of 114 and ended up being the highest scorer in the tournament. His imaginative strategies (pinch-hitters, slow-medium bowlers, opening bowling with a spinner) out-foxed the opposition as New Zealand made their way to the semi-final.

But his efforts proved futile in the end as he couldn’t win the trophy for his country. Crowe had a niggle and he decided to sit out of the semi-final, so that he could be fit for the final. Such was his confidence on his side. But all his strategies remained on the paper as New Zealand crashed out of the tournament, losing against the eventual winners Pakistan. This has remained the biggest regret of his life.

7.  Man of the Tournament

The Man of the Tournament award was introduced in World Cup cricket in 1992. Crowe was the first winner of the Trophy.

8.  Impressive numbers

Crowe represented four domestic cricket teams in his career spanning almost two decades. He played for Auckland, Central Districts, Somerset and Wellington, scoring nearly 20,000 runs in the process with 71 centuries and 80 half-centuries. His batting average of 56.02 is the highest for any New Zealand batsman with over 50 innings.

Crowe played 77 Tests and 143 ODIs for his country. His 5,444 Test runs came at an average of 45.36. His tally is behind only former and current New Zealand skippers Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum. He scored 4704 runs at 38.55 in his ODI career.

9.  Post-retirement

Crowe took up television commentary and became a cricket pundit post retiring. He was also the CEO of IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for a brief period.

10.  Rugby connection

Crowe has also been actively involved in rugby. A board member of South Sydney Rabbitohs Rugby League (co-owned by Russell Crowe), he also set up 1st XV Rugby on the Rugby Channel.

11.  Cricket Max

He invented the now defunct ‘Cricket Max’, a short form of cricket which was played primarily by New Zealand First-Class cricket teams in an annual competition. International matches in this new format were also played between the New Zealand Max Blacks and England (1997), West Indies (2000) and India (2002). It was a very short form of ODI cricket, with each team permitted two innings of 10 overs each.

12.  Surprise comeback

In the year 2011, Crowe announced his decision to return to competitive cricket 15 years after his retirement. The decision surprised many, as he had an injury-troubled career and it seemed unlikely that he could sustain the grind of cricket at this age. His comeback bid was driven by the desire to score the 392 runs he needed to tally 20,000 First-Class runs. His comeback, however, ended when he retired hurt just three balls into his first innings.

13.  Glamour connection

Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe happens to be Crowe’s first cousin. This apparently isn’t Crowe’s only glamour connection. His wife Lorraine Downes is a former Miss Universe and winner of the New Zealand version of the reality TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ 2006 season.

14.  Cancer

In October 2012, it was revealed that Crowe had been diagnosed with lymphoma. He announced in 2013 that he was free of cancer, but it returned in 2014, indicating that his chances of survival beyond 12 months were less than 5 per cent and on March 3, 2016, Crowe passed away after battling with the dreaded disease.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is senior content writer with Criclife. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed at @CricfreakTweets)