New Zealand cricket June 23, 2013

A complicated colossus of Kiwi cricket

Martin Crowe comes across as intense and angry in his latest book, Raw, but appears laidback when you meet him

Martin Crowe: makes cricket interesting © Paul Ford

"I lived my life in a private struggle in my mind."
--Martin Crowe, June 2013

I went to a cricket gig this week - it was a Carillon Club fundraiser in the Wellington CBD and involved some beers, some hors d'oeuvres, and some listening to Martin Crowe.

I loved Martin Crowe as a kid. I had his statistics as my EFTPOS card pin number for years. I have a framed print of Dick Frizzell's wonderful portrait of him batting at Lord's in my man cave. I love his passion for the game, and I regard him as a fantastic innovator and one of the sport's pre-eminent thinkers. We also agree that the New Zealand cricket team should be called the New Zealand cricket team - I liked it when he wrote: "Calling our national cricket team the Black Caps is plain awful."

But I don't always agree with him. We'd be terrible flatmates. I'd hate to bowl at him in the nets. He makes me roll my eyes and (cheap shot warning) want to tear my hair out with his melodrama at times, but he makes cricket more interesting.

The gig was unabashedly to promote Crowe's memoir, entitled Raw, a 300-page tome that is not about beef tartare, uncooked fish, professional wrestling or open-heart surgery. Raw is about his inner and outer turmoil as he wrestles the onset of lymphatic cancer and the inability to keep his concerns about cricket in perspective.

The room was rife with eighties and nineties players - Chats Chatfield, Sneds Snedden and Peaches Petrie were all within spitting distance of our spot in the room. Left-arm tweaker Evan Gray introduced Crowe, who later reminded us he'd been the catcher when Gray had snaffled his first Test wicket. It was David Gower off an inside edge, and Crowe confessed that the one-handed screamer snare "may have bounced".

The oddest parts of the evening were when Bryan Waddle took the microphone as Crowe's "interviewer", lobbing in a mixture of patsy and non-patsy questions, gushing praise, and anecdotes about St Lucian potato-eating and building a century "out of anger".

The accomplished and long-serving ball-by-ball radio commentator intervened with thinly veiled swipes at contemporary players, but an air of resentment underpinned several of his comments. Waddle's objectivity was clearly left angle-parked out on Allen Street.

Waddle quoted Brendon McCullum's line from 2011 when the batsman-keeper claimed the New Zealand players stopped listening to Martin Crowe "years ago". The irony of course is that in the pages of Raw, Crowe provides us with honest insight into why the shutters may have come down: "Anyone who criticised or questioned my motives or personality was the enemy," he writes. "[I] became a resentful man, a man who harboured grudges. [I] became the world record-holder for grievances."

Crowe in person seemed much more laidback than he comes across in much of the book. He talked about raccoons in his top drawer and Jeremy Coney's penchant for dyed hair. Contrast this with Raw's pages on work and cricket, where barely a chapter goes by without Crowe criticising an administrator, a team-mate, a player or a co-worker. It makes for interesting reading, but it would also be fascinating to hear the other side of these stories.

Crowe's time at Sky is laid bare, including his redundancy in 2012. One peculiar tale reminds us of Crowe's fragility and quirky approach to relationship-building as he seeks to break the ice with the chief executive of the pay TV network, wandering into John Fellet's office with a Pepsi Max, "looking for a fun chat about baseball or basketball, or giving him interesting books about baseball legends… Chats lasted a few minutes, but I always sensed he had better things to do."

I was sad to hear Crowe say he couldn't stay involved in cricket. He said that for the sake of his health, he couldn't afford to care about it anymore. I think he cared too much. Perhaps one day he will find a happy place somewhere between cricketing cold turkey and being on the front page of the Sunday Star-Times lambasting someone or other. I hope so.

Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Testcricfan on June 24, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Martin Crowe is without doubt the greatest Kiwi batsman and next only to Sir Richard Hadlee as their best cricketer. He used to deeply care about the game and hence was outspoken in cases where he felt the best interests of the sport were not taken into account. But it does not mean he is an old school bloke looking down on anything new - he was among the great thinkers of his time, he rolled out some great innovations in the '92 WC which changed the way ODI cricket was played, and his team deserved to win the tournament which would given him world-wide recognition as a bonafide great of the game. He also was the father of 'cricketainment' with his Max-20 cricket, which sadly did not catch on. Happy to see he has moved on from his past fall outs and has recovered from his life threatening illness, and great to see him respond to a Fans' admiration and criticism in an even manner...Sir, will toast to your health next time I have a drink! Wish you a long, healthy and happy life!

  • dummy4fb on June 23, 2013, 22:17 GMT

    I'm a Kiwi. I've been a supporter of the NZ cricket team for as long as I can remember and will be until the day I die. Sometimes I think it's a terrible affliction! Maybe one day I'll write a book. It'll be called Raw Too.

  • espncricinfomobile on June 23, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    For the record, in the 32 chapters, I am critical in 12. I don't know what more one can say here really except Paul is entitled to his opinion as I am to challenge the accuracy of it. The good news is there won't be any more about work and cricket after this book, for those chapters are truly closed. Paul its time to take the Lords print off the cave wall.

    'Through the gloom light appears'.

  • dummy4fb on June 23, 2013, 20:55 GMT

    Sir Martin, You were magical on the field. Like a true genius, you did have your follies. It takes a lot of guts to accept it. May Lord bestow you with good health. Speak your mind..... We love you the way, you are !

  • espncricinfomobile on June 23, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    Paul - the other side of the book, in every chapter, are references to the many people I love and admire. Naturally those close but also over a hundred players, commentators, writers, coaches. Far outweighing the criticism of some. Why focus on only a small part of the story. That I single out some for criticism is in context to why I got ill. My responses were wrong, My intent is to forgive all that happened. Which I state often in the book and aftermath. We all have fall outs but all mine have been made public, such is the spotlight I have endured since a teenager. This book wraps it all up, the good,the bad and the ugly. Its all truth. All manifesting into a deadly disease within. Since diagnosis and treatment I have made drastic changes to ensure my health improves. Not sure why you didn't sense that in book as its clearly written. The book is a signing off from the old ways. The anger has gone completely. Are we not capable of changing, of moving on? Cancer forces you to, trust me

  • dummy4fb on June 23, 2013, 15:04 GMT

    Look forward to reading this. Huge fan of Crowe's batting style and still remember his 100 in WC 92's opening match against the Aussies. Always wondered why he chose to make that silly comeback, may be this book would reveal some of that..