Martin Crowe farewelled in Auckland
Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand captain, was farewelled by around 1000 mourners at a funeral service in Auckland that celebrated one of cricket's greatest talents and fiercest intellects.
The funeral held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell was broadcast live around New Zealand, and also streamed online. It featured tributes from Crowe's wife Lorraine Downes, his brother Jeff Crowe, his former international team-mate, Ian Smith, and his school friend David Lyle Morris.
In an emotional address, Jeff Crowe remembered the outpouring grief and appreciation for his brother last week in Bangladesh, where he had been serving as an ICC match referee: "It never really dawned on me how deep it all went, what a huge splash he made, what an inspiration he was for so many."
He noted with some awe and puzzlement Crowe's abilities as a writer. "How did he know how to write a truly clever sentence or paragraph," he asked. "Then I was reminded by our friend Richard Reid, 'unlike you Jeff, he actually attended class, and read a book or two'."
Smith recalled being asked in June last year by Crowe to write a eulogy, before witnessing him fight on against cancer to live for another nine months. He spoke of how Crowe first emerged as New Zealand's leading batsman by battling against ill health, heat and an adverse match situation to save a draw against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1984, and then went on to dominant innings against the West Indies and Australia, dual innings of 188 apiece in 1985.
"You know Stockley, that was great indeed," Crowe had told Smith, his roommate in Brisbane, after Richard Hadlee's 9 for 52 "but if we don't capitalise on that, it won't be the same." At the 1992 World Cup, Smith said Crowe's innovations sent cricket's best brains "into a collective tailspin". Smith also read a heartfelt message from Allan Border, and summed up by saying that one word epitomised Crowe: "Passion."
Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, two cricketers Crowe had mentored, delivered video tributes ahead of New Zealand's looming World Twenty20 campaign in India. Guptill's words included: "He always saw something in my game, even when I couldn't." Taylor spoke of how Crowe's email had inspired him to make 290 against Australia in Perth last year after a bad match in Brisbane had him questioning his future: "Hogan's words made me truly believe and have faith again."
His wife Lorraine spoke about Crowe's final days, about her feelings of grief at his loss, and also about his faith. "Many knew him as a cricketing legend, I knew him only as my soulmate," she said. "He could be passionate, romantic, and fun. And he could be as cheeky as hell. He was everything I ever dreamed for in a partner.
"I recently asked him 'what is the most important lesson you've learned'. He said 'I have learned many lessons, but the most important of these is to only hold onto the truth, removing all that is untrue and false'. I asked Marty how he wanted to be remembered. He said 'for being authentic, loving and full of prayer'."
A host of notable cricketing names attended, including a sizeable New Zealand Cricket delegation: the chief executive, David White; the president, Stephen Boock; the board directors Sir Richard Hadlee, Martin Snedden and Geoff Allott, and the selector, Gavin Larsen.
Greg Chappell was present as a representative of Cricket Australia, and also as a former foe: he had captained Australia against New Zealand in Crowe's very first Test match, and his upright technique had been a source of considerable inspiration for Crowe's own methods.
There were many small touches, redolent of Crowe's eye for detail. The service order was orange, a favourite colour, while his casket was adorned with the image of a butterfly. The funeral began with footage of Crowe's innings of 142 against England at Lord's in 1994, his most cherished performance, accompanied by the Pink Floyd instrumental The Great Gig In The Sky.
Following the service, current Auckland Grammar students formed a guard of honour, and also delivered a ceremonial Haka. Crowe's pallbearers included the actor Russell Crowe, and longtime friends Hilton Mexted, David Lyle Morris, Grant Fox, Steve Wilkes and his brother Jeff.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig