Batsman, leader, commentator, thinker. And, I suppose I can be held responsible for adding, 'coach'. Martin was not destined for mediocrity. As a batsman, getting into the New Zealand team was not his goal. He succeeded in being acknowledged as one of the best in the world. He made plenty of runs, but it wasn't the numbers.
It was the manner. Stylist, classy, in control. Against the best, fastest bowlers in the world, he always had time and always had a plan. Natural ability, yes, but also a careful study of every bowler's ability.
I first got to know Martin well during the 1998-99 Indian tour to NZ. He had recently retired from the game and joined us on the television team. Strong on opinion, he enjoyed enormous respect within the New Zealand cricketing community. Off the job, he was a fun-loving guy and we enjoyed playing some golf together.
Though he went on to cement his career as a commentator, true to his personality, he was keen on making a difference to the game rather than merely describing it. It was only a matter of time before he realised the need for a quicker, more enjoyable format.
As with so many inventors/explorers, perhaps he was a little ahead of the times, or was somewhat tucked away in far off NZ. Cricket Max did not gain global currency, but it certainly earned Martin the reputation of being a thinker. Of someone constantly looking to push boundaries.
Pretty good choice
And so, when I and Rahul (Dravid), as icon player/captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore were short listing coaching options, Martin seemed a pretty good choice. T20 cricket was still in its early days in 2008. The IPL, with all its promise, was a thrilling mystery.
The need of the hour was out-of-the-box thinking, a personality who could understand and knit together a diverse set of global stars, be respected for cricketing achievements and handle the needs of public interface with elan.
Without question, Martin scored heavily on all fronts. I called him, we haggled a bit, I threw in some charms of Bangalore – climate, golf, pubs, eateries – and he added a new feather in his colourful cap — coach. Apart from his obvious inputs on the game, he was quite helpful in suggesting behind the scenes and 'dressing room' tactics. Which he had picked up thanks to watching cousin, Russell Crowe, handle the ownership of his Aussie Rules team.
We had a wonderful time building up the team, leading up to the inaugural IPL season despite the ridiculously short preparation time. But Baz (Brendon McCullum) played the knock of his life during the opener and we had an unhappy start to the season.
My early unceremonious exit was an ominous indication for Martin who also realised that money is one thing but harmony is quite another. We didn't keep in close touch thereafter. I felt guilty at pulling him away from his commentary contract, for what turned out, finally, to be a forgettable part of his otherwise very successful life and times.
He was fabulous cricketer. A good, fun-loving human being. And a good friend. To leave this earth at 53 is a travesty of justice. RIP, Martin David Crowe.
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