Martin Crowe
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Former New Zealand batsman and captain

A letter to New Zealand's batsmen

Advice for the top and middle order: look within for the answers

Martin Crowe

November 24, 2012

Comments: 41 | Text size: A | A

Brendon McCullum completes a run, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day, November 17, 2012
Forget about positive intent; you can afford to take your time batting in a Test © AFP

Dear Baz, Rosco, Guppy, Kane, Flynny, Frankie,

Baz, remember last year when I said to Ian Smith on his radio show that you could become the world's best Test batsman-keeper, if fit to keep, but you needed to bat five, behind Rosco? I said I admired you for trying to open, but ideally your best position for potential production of runs was batting five. I said that opening in a Test match was a real specialist's job, but that you as a brilliant all-round cricketer needed room to express all that talent. Five minutes later, after the ads, on the same radio station, they put you on live and you were told to listen to a quickly edited, out-of-context sound bite of me saying you should bat five. Your immediate reaction when asked what you made of all that was to say, "We stopped listening to Crowe years ago."

That's okay, but I want you to have one last listen. What harm could it do?

I have no problem with you opening, as you are one of the best New Zealand have, you are experienced and have done it enough now to have a good feel for it. Also, as your back won't allow you to keep, specialising in a role like opening is a great challenge, and the team do need you to conquer it.

My advice is simple. If worthy to follow, it might pay off for the others too.

Batting for a long period in a Test match really only requires one thing: keeping the wicket-taking balls out with impregnable defence. Once you do that, the rest of the balls you face are run-scoring opportunities. That's what the most prolific do at present - Kallis, Amla, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Cook, Clarke. They respect the wicket-taking ball and then go after the rest, especially the boundary ball.

They know which is which. They have trained their mind to sense once the ball leaves the hand whether it is a wicket-taking ball or boundary ball. In a Test you are better off with this approach because you can afford to adopt it. You are allowed to bat for two days if you want. So if you can, get rid of the desire to have what is popularly known as "positive intent" to your innings; it's too general and can get you into trouble. Instead, just bat ball by ball; keep out the good one softly and hit the bad one brutally. Chances are, you will increase your production by ten runs an innings easily.

Rosco, you too need to go back to the basics. Get in first. Get the eyes adjusted first. Get the feet moving together and properly first. Get the bat hitting the ball late first. Defend the wicket-taking ball, wait for the loose one. Bat in tens, chalk up as many tens as you can. Walk off with the umpires.

Guppy, stop beating yourself up. Talk positively to yourself with simple, positive affirmations: "This ball, watch the ball." Once the ball is bowled, chill out, relax for a few seconds, do nothing. Breathe. If a negative thought enters your head, laugh at it, or visualise screwing it up like a piece of paper and throwing it away. It's a famous Bruce Lee tactic that I used a lot. Play to your strength of hitting straight, defensively and offensively. Make them suffer with your large frame and bat forming a wall they can't get through. Oh, and put your bat on the ground, as this holding it up has never worked for you; a shorter backlift is a better option.

Kane, it's your second year and bowlers are working you out. They are bowling tighter to you. You need to get behind the ball, so the ball goes back to the bowler or on the on side of the pitch. Your footwork is excellent but you seem stuck. Part of that is this desire of yours to pump your backlift up high while the bowler runs in. Doesn't suit you. Better if you put the bat on the ground and tap it softly, like you did when you made 40 hundreds at school. With the backlift held up and behind you, you can't access the leg-side ball well enough. Go back to what you used to do, which made you the finest prospect to come out of youth cricket. You are potentially world-class, but you need to believe it too.

Flynny, good to see you fighting hard. You are playing for your life and it shows. But I know you have more skill than you are showing, especially when driving down past the bowler. All your runs are coming square. Drive straight more and beat the bowler for more runs. You can dominate these guys when they get tired. Get in as you have been, then punch them straight all day.

If a top player relies on confidence, he will never achieve much. Rely on method and repetition

Frankie, it's best I just say it out loud: what the hell are you doing? For a big, strapping lad to be blocking every single ball with a half-step and a lazy stroke is a complete waste of all you have learnt in the last 15 years. Take some rescue remedy or smell some salts, but for heaven's sake, fire yourself up for the contest. Once out there, say to yourself: "The ball". See it and go hit it. You are an allrounder, so you are allowed the freedom to impose yourself as Botham, Hadlee, Kapil and Imran used to do. They saw the ball and cleared the field. Hit straight and hit the wide gaps. Be smart, but be competitive and fiery with it.

Overall, lads, we just want a bit of individual spirit and some internal fortitude over a reasonable period at the crease. Deep down I do hope you are thinking of churning out a ton. I know there is no greater feeling as a batsman. To bat six hours in a Test is better than sex.

Mostly I just want you to decide on who and what you are and what you know, what you bring to international cricket, what you want to give for your country. From the outside, you look dispirited, disjointed and disoriented.

Wrongly, you are looking outside for the answers. Look within, look in the mirror and ask yourself to stand up and be the men you are. Look within, be honest, strip away the rubbish and focus on what's important and what's really and essentially you.

As a batsman, settle on a method and style of batting that you can be true to, day in, day out. It has nothing to do with confidence. If a top player relies on confidence, he will never achieve much. Rely on method and repetition. Often I felt awful, stressed, slow, even distracted, but once I got to the middle, I relied on a method of controlling my thoughts and executing a straight bat with sure footwork. Even in a bad mood, if I relied on those basic principles I could still forge a score that was respectable. That's all anyone can ask.

Come on, chaps, forget the pre-match talk about intent boding well on a certain pitch, taking on spinners. It's all false bravado. Tell the media to turn up and watch and report on the game once it starts. Look in the mirror, remind yourselves of the affirmations you will need to control the concentration required for each ball, stick your chin up, and turn to face the music with fierce focus.

Guys, while walking out to bat it's vital you feel the sense that you are relishing the opportunity, embracing the challenge, and are grateful for the talent your parents gave you.

Men, take guard so you know where your stumps are, then look at where the gaps are, and finally watch the ball leave the bowler's hand. Then repeat it, over and over. When the umpires take you off the field, your job is done for that period. In a Test, the greatest achievement is seeing how many times the umpires take you off the field, undefeated.

Lastly, lads, trust me when I say that what you are doing, batting in a Test match, fighting a cause for your nation, is far and away a better option than sitting in an office.

Trust me.


Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by amclean on (November 26, 2012, 10:41 GMT)

An alternative option would be for the lads to spent a week with Alistair Cook and glean some insights on his methods that have led to 22 Test hundreds at age 27. What a player.

Posted by   on (November 25, 2012, 21:28 GMT)

the worst part of new zealand cricket is everyone knows everything right down from grassroots level may be it is a whole western culture thing, some of the senior boys team u see playing and the way they talk to there coaches is appaling

ive played a bit of club cricket here, nothing major but i had a good time because of the facilitation available here to small players as well

it is amazing the level of skill we have come through the ranks in new zealand which some times is through pure determination of the player himself not because of nurturing at the grassroots level

i would not be keen on listening especially to turner as well who from bit of history reading was the biggest cry baby of his time.

but people like martin crowe and stephen fleming should be used in specialist roles on an ongoing basis

Posted by Southern on (November 25, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

Afraid I have to agree with Llandaff. Martin Crowe was a special player and his comments to the current batting line-up have merit. No NZ cricket follower will ever forget Martin's wonderful technique and temperament. He never gave his wicket away cheaply and produced his best in the big games, against the best bowling attacks. However I do question his method of delivering this message (ie an open letter). I am aware that Martin has coached Ross Taylor in the past and his use of player nicknames in his letter suggests that he knows all of the batsmen personally. As such he would have the means to send this letter directly. Martin appears to have a need to play things out in the media. If he genuinely has NZ cricket's best interests at heart, he should keep doing whatever he can to assist, including delivering messages to directly players who I am sure respect his thinking on the game. Stick to the cricket Martin, and leave the relentless attention seeking to Ms Ridge & Co.

Posted by 12th_man on (November 25, 2012, 20:55 GMT)

Thanks MDC for trying to help, we all know you have your own battle at the moment and hope it's going as well as it can. We have a small base of players here and often it seems that you've made it once you make the team whereas in larger and more competitive countries you need to consistently perform to stay in the team. Ignore what our guys do against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, my mother could score runs against them. We need to get our guys playing in the Aussie state competition (somehow) in longer forms of the game. IPL has helped our best guys earn some good money but has done little to help them concentrate for long periods and to strategise plans and execute them. Test cricket is the ultimate, ask Tendulkar, Warne, Richards, Pietersen, Akram, or Kallis. You don't win all the time but never give up and don't throw your wicket away that what mentally tough players do. Well done guys in the first day, more today pls. Cheers, NJC

Posted by HyderabadiFlick on (November 25, 2012, 19:11 GMT)

Martin Crowe = Carl Hooper in batting styles. They both were wonderful cricketers. I loved watching Martin Crowe since 1987 WC when I was just 6 years old. Thanks for all the great innings of yours Martin!

Posted by Dagur on (November 25, 2012, 14:09 GMT)

This is a master class not only for the struggling New Zealanders but for all others struggling on the cricket field.

Posted by mjp2 on (November 25, 2012, 11:49 GMT)

Llandaff, it seems NZ cricketers stopped listening to the likes of Martin Crowe and Glen Turner a while ago. We have a small player base and a smaller number of test level players, which means they are generally comfortable in holding their places in the side and are reputed to have strong power through the players union. Crowe and Turner (and Wright) all advocate working hard on your technique, valuing your wicket and the honour of playing for your country, and the mental skills of the game. It seems pretty clear that our lot, standing out early as internationals in a weak local league with small grounds, are bully batsmen and think they are above all that. An open letter is likely the only way Crowe might get to many of these guys. They might have decided not to listen to Crowe and others, but a lot of us have got tired of watching these guys make NZ look stupid.

Posted by   on (November 25, 2012, 9:09 GMT)

The 1986 Lord's test and particularly the Edgar - Crowe partnership should be compulsory viewing for NZ players as well as batting masterclasses led by Jeremy Coney. Failing that, listening to Martin Crowe is not a bad option.

Posted by LLandaff on (November 25, 2012, 9:07 GMT)

Martin Crowe may well have value to offer the New Zealand cricket team but if indeed he is motivated by the best interests of his national team, why would he not convey the advice directly and privately to those individuals. The fact that he has chosen to publish this advice suggests that the team's interests are not the genuine motivation for this public letter. In reality,this is just another bout of self serving promotion.

Posted by michael64 on (November 25, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

well said Martin Crowe. If BAZ has stopped listening to you... well then that explains a lot. In the last 30 years there has been no finer technician than Martin Crowe. Wasim Akram not only described him as a genius but also rated him one of the hardest batsmen to bowl to QUOTE " Martin Crowe was the only batsman in the world who knew how to play reverse swing" Have you mastered playing reverse swing yet BAZ? or spin?

Posted by stogster on (November 25, 2012, 3:26 GMT)

Do you think it would be possible to cc a copy of this to the Bangladeshi top 5 as well?

Posted by holzy1 on (November 25, 2012, 3:25 GMT)

This is the last chance for me as a fan, if they do not win this match or at least compete for 5 days i will not support them again. Im sick and tired of these guys underperforming. I love cricket and my country, but the fact is they have won only 3 from there last 30 matches in all formats- totally unexceptable!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by dalboy12 on (November 25, 2012, 2:11 GMT)

Note he doesn't knock the selection and there in lies the problem in NZ cricket - there is no-one else. Apart from Ryder, who needs to get his head right first. There is no real competition for places among the batsman in NZ, guys can fail a lot and know that they will get another chance. The shame is that we have a pretty good bowling attack at the moment, if only we can get some runs for them to bowl at.

Posted by cheesemethod on (November 25, 2012, 2:10 GMT)

Mccullum is my fav bat to watch. His biggest weakness is nicking out for 5. I dont always agree with martin but hes got it spot on. Logic suggests number 5 is his perfect position. No one is questioning his ability but opener is as martn says a specialised position. You have to know what to leave and absorb that first morning session.... Granted nz has tried specialist openers with a string of failures....

Posted by KiwiTiger1974 on (November 24, 2012, 23:24 GMT)

Every so often a player who is maniacally professional comes along, but instead of being revered by peers and colleagues, they are often alienated by cliques that dominate the team. NZ have had good players, however very few world class exponents of bat and ball. Sir RJH was ostracised much of his career for being perceived by team mates as being"too professional". Granted he's single minded and arrogant, however many of the best in sports often are. His attention to detail, constant honing of his skills and diet made him the best wicket to wicket bowler of his time. MDC too iis an incredibly intense individual whose views often rub people the wrong way. MDC executed batting technique fantasically and produced the goods. Those who "stoped listening to him a long time ago" may want to take a look at themselves and open closed ears. I'm not the one touring obsessively hot countries, away from family, quick bowling around my ears - but I, like many Kiwi's, would give anything to be them!

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 22:18 GMT)

I don 't understand why people are still so enamoured with McCullum? He is good in the short form of the game but he'll go down in history as an average test batsman. I think that's half the problem with NZ cricket is that fan overrate players like him, they start to believe it and don't have the drive to really improve, and it shows in their stats.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 17:40 GMT)

In terms of overall approach accurate, and what every nz follower wishes they might do. all the same, crowe always has to dress commonsense up in ghastly 'affirmation' pyschobabble. bruce lee indeed. if he left that out, and the 'i was the greatest, this is how to follow in my footsteps' attitude out, then the perceptive technical advice might be received more graciously

Posted by QingdaoXI on (November 24, 2012, 16:39 GMT)

New Zealand need some Changes in batting order and i hope atleast from next series they follow this : Guptill, Flynn, Williamson, Taylor, Ryder, McCullum, Watling, Vettori, Bracewell, Boult, Southee. 12th men Patel (Spin) or Ellis (Pace).

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 16:11 GMT)

Respect for the great batsman........if Wasim Akram says he was a genius with bat who am I at to disagree........Fortunate are those who listen to the advise......take it......modify it.......apply it

Posted by gandhala on (November 24, 2012, 15:32 GMT)

Sehwag and Baz are much alike but problem with Baz is that he doesnt have a strong middle order team to back his failures.Thats the luxury Sehwag had/has. So Baz needs to change his approach for the team. Spot on for Frankie too, He need go for his shots, he is really effective when he does it.

" Mostly I just want you to decide on who and what you are and what you know, what you bring to international cricket, what you want to give for your country"

Lovely words

Posted by ozwriter on (November 24, 2012, 14:13 GMT)

unbelievable patriotism. MDC is unbelievable. he is so passionate for his country and for each and every player to fulfil their potential. from this article, it does seem that MDS has been overlooked or not fully utilised in NZ. in the professional world, I wish he would take up a batting coach job for another team, a team that will actually listen.

Posted by Gurram on (November 24, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

Good advise Mr.Crowe, but I dont think this will help. NZ means = semi finalist of any global tournament, but they missed T20 2012 WC semis. I guess some core ingredient is missing in the team. Leave Ross, Brendon, Franklin to do what they are good at. Playing good shots and big shots. Leave the captaincy to some debutant who can bat at no.7 and bowl at no.6

I am sure this will work.

Posted by A_HTIMAN on (November 24, 2012, 13:00 GMT)

Great article Crowe :) looks like Kiwis are doing loads of other stuff than sticking to the basics

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 12:27 GMT)

Surely this is from Martin Crowe! A Legend!

Posted by RushSri on (November 24, 2012, 11:58 GMT)

Why can't NZ try & get in Jesse Ryder for opening slot & push Mccullum down the order at No.4 or 5. What's the problem with Baz taking advice from Martin Crowe, who both are my favourite cricketers from NZ apart from Sir Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns & Ross Taylor.

Posted by Simoc on (November 24, 2012, 11:42 GMT)

Internal fortitude would be foreign to NZ cricketers. They don't have it. Content to get picked, score 30 to hold their place and be hometown bully boys. Internationally they should be playing teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe where they can compete. It seems McCullum is past it and Ross Taylor is the only international grade player, now that Vettori is rarely sighted.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

A well constructed letter that is both affirming of the individual talents of each batsman and is strewn with pearls. I sincerely hope that a man of MDC's stature in the cricketing world will be listened to.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 11:26 GMT)

A well constructed letter by MDC. Given the current rankings of NZ and the inconsistency of the top order, such advice should be considered worthy, particularly given that it comes from such a fine technician with the bat. A very positive and affirming letter. The talent is there, but a turn around is required for that talent to really blossom. One can only hope that the advice may have some impact.

Posted by jimbond on (November 24, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

Having seen Mcullum's batting over the past couple of years, I can see that he is definitely not taking Crowe's advice. I guess they still have an okay team, what they need to do is to reduce the injuries, as they lack bench strength. NZ should possibly play fewer matches or at least fewer ODIs and T20s

Posted by VivtheGreatest on (November 24, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

The present Kiwi batsmen could do a lot worse than taking advice from a legend like Martin Crowe, arguably their greatest batsman of all time. In fact the two W's of Pakistan had rated him the best batsman of their time in separate interviews. So lose the ego and listen!!

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 24, 2012, 8:53 GMT)

Thank you cricinfo for publishing this and well said Martin Crowe. On paper no doubt Taylor, McCullum, Williamson and Guptill are good but just not clicking, which is sad.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 24, 2012, 8:39 GMT)

NZ problem is all cross bat shots. They need to bat with straight bat

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

Like Crowe said, what harm could it do to listen? It's not like NZ is beating all-comers at the moment. Here is a guy who was NZ's best-ever batting technician and a prolific run-scorer, and the under-performers in the Black Caps are dismissing him like some know-nothing armchair critic. I agree with everything that Crowe said, and I hope the NZ batters pull their heads in enough to take it in the positive spirit that it was given.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

To Atawhai: Baz for McCullum Rosco for Taylor Guppy for Guptill Frankie for Franklin Kane for Williamson Flynny for Flynn. . .

Posted by Atawhai on (November 24, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

Who are these people? Can someone translate the juvenile nicknames?

Posted by summerof78 on (November 24, 2012, 6:33 GMT)

One of the best articles i've read. Martin Crowe has a wealth of insight and knowledge which should really be more used especially by the fairly inexperienced current side.I've always been a big fan of Brendon but the shot he played to get out in the last test was unworthy of an top order player.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

An interesting article indeed! Gives good learning points to everybody...

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

Really good article..!! Hope they read cricinfo :)

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 3:50 GMT)

Chances are they won't. I can't Mccullum taking any advice, no matter who it comes from. And even if he went down to 5, I hate to think who could possibly open, unless we grabbed Vincent back in there again and we all know he never wanted to open in Tests. The domestic scene is just far too weak.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 3:44 GMT)

A really good read. Whether NZ will learn or not, there is a lot to learn for the youngsters. Proves that Test cricket is all about mental strength, above everything else.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 3:19 GMT)

Sincerely hope the present NZ team reads some of this. Not just because despite their talent they've been pathetic off late. But also because Crowe was one of the few from NZ, who married sublime talent with supreme fight. The pleasure of watching NZ was how they always punched above their weight despite limited pool to pick from and maximizing all that talent at disposal. The present crop is doing themselves no favors on either side.When you're atrocious, at least listen to those who've done it before you, and done it far better.

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