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Couldn't get over how easy Martin made batting look as a 15-year-old: John Wright

I guess most people have thought pretty much the same thing when they saw Hogan — Martin Crowe — for the first time: "Here's something special."

Martin Crowe celebrates with a glass of champagne after the Kiwis record their first Test win over England at Headingley in 1983. Pic/Getty Images
Martin Crowe celebrates with a glass of champagne after the Kiwis record their first Test win over England at Headingley in 1983. Pic/Getty Images

My first sighting was at a coaching clinic for promising players run by Martin Horon, who was then national coach. I was 22, back from my first season overseas, and he was 15 and pretty big for his age. There was a game on the last day. The wicket was bit up and down and I ended up batting with him, chasing a modest target which we knocked off. I couldn't get over how easy he made it look and how technically good he was. He seemed to have modeled himself on Greg Chappell.

He did a bit of bowling in that match. It was a flat wicket but he was quite nippy, bowling big inswingers to me. He was handy enough but he wanted to bowl at a million miles an hour and sprayed all over the place. Bowling seemed to bring out a wild streak in Martin.

Impact
In 1981 he was over in England on the Lord's ground staff and making a big impact. When they played the Derbyshire second XI, the Australian Wayne Phillips went in and thrashed 20 off the first over, then got out. Martin came in and smacked it everywhere, got a big score and certainly impressed the Derbyshire lads.

He played his first Test when he was 19 – against Australia at the Basin (in Wellington). He was a whiz kid, the new sensation. Some players get picked very early because there's no one else. In this case, there were alternatives but most of the team felt he was good enough to be there.

Shocking series
Owing to rain, he didn't get a bat till late in the game and Jeff Thomson — who bowled pretty quickly in that series when he got it right — worked him over. Martin ended up having a shocking series: at Lancaster Park he played two beautiful boundary shots then ran down the wicket and was stumped for nine; he was obviously pumping with adrenalin.

By this time there were one or two murmurs that it was the case of "too far too fast". There's always the danger of putting a player's development back two or three years by chucking him in too early.

I really admired the way he came back from that horrible start against the Aussies. Getting dropped after that series was probably a good thing. From very early on I thought he was a great player and I used to tell him so.

Extracted from Christmas in Rarotonga – the John Wright Story. Published by Moa Publications in 1990

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