Martin David Crowe was born on September 22, 1962 in Henderson, Auckland, to parents Audrey and David Crowe. He had a sister Deb and an older brother Jeff, who played 39 Tests and 75 ODIs for New Zealand. Russell Crowe, the actor, was a younger cousin.
In 1968 at the age of around 6, Crowe joined Cornwall Cricket Club in Auckland, the start of a lifelong association. In fact, on February 27, 2015, during his battle with lymphoma, Crowe took part in a match to mark the club's 60th anniversary. "My dad's ashes are up there on that bench so I thought it would be nice to bat an over, if I last the over," Crowe told ONE News ahead of the game "I was going to treat this as my last outing on the old ground." He made 25 not out off 20 balls in his final innings.
Crowe attended Auckland Grammar School as a 13-year old in 1976 and spent five years in the institution. This is what his headmaster Sir John Graham, a former All Black, wrote about him in 1980 (taken from martincrowe.com): "MD Crowe is one of the outstanding young men to have attended Auckland Grammar. He has excelled in every aspect of school life in which he has been involved and no boy in the School's history has done more for his school's reputation than Martin Crowe. He is a young man of the highest quality and all-round potential. He is dedicated and determined in all he does, he has the intelligence and the ability to do all things well. His character is strong, dependable and independent. I have the highest regard for him as a young New Zealander."
Crowe was fast tracked in domestic and international cricket. The rapid progress he made, however, wasn't always beneficial. "From the age of 14 when I was picked for the Auckland under-23 side and then as 12th man for a Shell Trophy final. I was basically given a script that was way beyond my years. Emotionally I was totally unprepared and ever since, I've always been playing catch-up with that emotional stability," Crowe told New Zealand Herald in 2006. "All I kept feeding was an ego. In terms of my emotional development I was always three years out of my depth and I've had issues throughout my career with it."
On January 19, 1980, at the age of 17, Crowe made his first-class debut for Auckland against Canterbury, scoring 51 in the first innings. His domestic career ended in the 1995-96 season and he finished with 19,608 first-class runs at an average of 56 in 247 matches, representing Auckland, Central Districts, Somerset and Wellington. His List A career comprised 261 matches in which he scored 8740 runs at an average of 38.16.
Crowe was 19 when he made his ODI debut , against Australia at Eden Park in Auckland, on February 13, 1982. He did not bat in New Zealand's 46-run victory that day, despite them losing six wickets. Two weeks later, Crowe made his Test debut, at Basin Reserve, where he was run out for 9 in a rain-hit draw against Australia. "When I played for New Zealand when I was 19, against Lillee and Thomson, I rattled off scores of 9, 2, 0 and 9. And then I ran up to the far north of New Zealand to be with my sister. I couldn't face anyone in public," Crowe told The Cricket Monthly in 2014. "And then I finally went down to the pub to play a game of pool. At the bar there was this big Maori man, and he said, "Hey, Crowe! I hope you can play pool better than you can play cricket. I was trapped. I couldn't go anywhere. This was the farthest pub in New Zealand, and in that moment I realised I had to fix this problem of failure."
After seven Tests, in which he scored only 183 runs at 15.25, Crowe made his maiden Test century - a match-saving 100 against England in Wellington. "But Martin, the younger of the Crowe brothers, showed exceptional maturity for a 21-year-old, batting for 276 minutes without making a visible mistake until the stroke that got him out, an edge to slip that gave Gatting his first Test wicket," Wisden reported. "Crowe's driving, reminiscent of Greg Chappell's in its rifling precision, accounted for most of his 19 fours." Crowe went on to make 17 Test hundreds, a New Zealand record that still stands.
Between 1984 and 1988, Crowe played county cricket for Somerset, where he replaced Viv Richards. Ian Botham was not happy at losing the West Indian batsman and disparagingly called Crowe "a good club cricketer". Crowe went on to play 48 matches for Somerset, making 3984 runs at an average of 59.
Crowe's second and third Test hundreds were a brace of 188s in April and November 1985. The second of those came in a famous innings win at the Gabba, where Crowe's performance complemented Richard Hadlee's 15 wickets to seal New Zealand's first Test victory in Australia. "Martin was sublime, really. Watching from the other end I was constantly amazed at the time he had to play his shots," John Reid, who scored 108 in that innings, told ESPNcricinfo in 2015. "When they pitched the ball up, he drove it well. When they pitched it short he cut, hooked and pulled the ball. He dominated their attack to an extent I could not emulate. I was actually consciously feeding him the strike to ensure that his ability to dominate the attack could be utilised to better the chances of winning." In contrast, the first of those 188s had been an exercise in patience that helped New Zealand draw a Test in Guyana. Crowe had batted nine and a half hours, longer than any of his previous first-class innings.
Bruce Reid struck Crowe on the jaw during the Christchurch Test in 1986. Crowe was on 51 when he mistimed the hook and had to leave the field to get ten stitches. He returned with New Zealand 190 for 6 in the first innings, in response to Australia's 364, and counterattacked to make 137 off 226 balls. "It was a display which drew comparisons with Sutcliffe's epic innings for New Zealand at Johannesburg in 1953-54," Wisden reported.
Crowe made 1348 first-class runs at an average of 103.69 for Central Districts in the 1986-87 domestic season to help win the Shell Trophy for his team. The 1676 runs Crowe scored that summer remains the New Zealand record for the most runs in a season.
In early 1987, Crowe made 119, 104 and 83 in three Tests against attacks comprising Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Tony Gray to help New Zealand draw the series against West Indies 1-1. "Sometimes you got too conscious because you tried too hard to deal with the challenge," Crowe told The Cricket Monthly about what could trip him up in the middle. "And against West Indies you had to accept it was hit or miss. Out of five, you were going to have three failures but if you could have one good innings and a half-good innings, you would average 40 and that would be okay in that era of the '80s."
Crowe captained New Zealand for the first time in a Test against Pakistan in October 1990. He led his country in 16 Tests - of which New Zealand won two and lost seven - and 44 ODIs (21 wins, 22 defeats). As captain, he averaged 54 with the bat in Tests and 45 in ODIs.
On February 4, 1991, Crowe made the highest individual Test score for New Zealand - a record that stood for 23 years - but also became the only batsman to be dismissed for 299. He batted 610 minutes in that innings against Sri Lanka, and said after the game: "It's a bit like climbing Everest and pulling a hamstring in the last stride." His 467-run partnership with Andrew Jones was also a world record at the time.
In February and March 1992, Crowe led New Zealand to the semi-finals of the World Cup, the highlight of his captaincy career. He was Player of the Tournament for being the top-scorer - 456 runs at an average of 114 - and for his innovative captaincy: Crowe used a spinner to open the bowling and restrict batsmen during the fielding restrictions, and also deployed a pinch-hitter to exploit those very restrictions when New Zealand batted. "Marty was a very creative and brilliant thinker, the genesis came from him. Tactically he was light years ahead of anyone else I played under," former New Zealand bowler Gavin Larsen said in 2014. "He was the boss, he ran the gig. He was like a chess master, the way he moved his players around. He was just clever." Crowe, however, did not field in the semi-final against Pakistan, and New Zealand failed to defend their total. "With what unfolded, I had made a massive mistake in not taking the field despite a hamstring injury, because I was trying to be fit for the final as opposed to getting the team through to the final," Crowe said in 2015.
His international career ended in India, in November 1995. Crowe's final innings was 63 off 62 balls in Nagpur, where New Zealand won by 99 runs to draw the ODI series 2-2. Crowe finished with 5444 runs at an average of 45 in 77 Tests, and 4704 runs in 143 ODIs at an average of 38.55.
In 1996, Crowe launched his invention, Cricket Max - a shortened form of the game with a funky format and rules. "I invented and designed Cricket Max because I felt it was time to provide to our spectators and TV viewers a game of cricket that was short in duration, very colourful, kept some old traditions and highlighted the best skills in the game," Crowe said at the time. The format was not played after 2003.
Crowe began his broadcast career in 1997, when he joined Sky Television. "Marty embodies the quality that businesses often dislike but desperately need - the desire to change something before it gets stale," Nate Smith, former Sky TV CEO, said on martincrowe.com. "I saw that way back when he saw the world of cricket needed a shorter formatted game. Did all the ideas tested last? No, but it did move the code forward in its thinking. Marty may not always say what people want to hear, but that is why he would be the perfect choice."
Crowe was inducted into the New Zealand sports hall of fame and awarded an MBE for services to cricket in 2001. He had plenty more to give the game. Crowe was a mentor, most notably to New Zealand batsmen Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor. "Martin has been a mentor to me for almost my entire first-class career. In both the good times and the more trying times Martin has always been there for me," Taylor said in a testimonial on martincrowe.com. "His advice, technical understanding and nous, coupled with his unwavering belief and loyalty in me have made my job as a professional cricketer that much easier. I shall always be grateful to him."
At the age of 48, in May 2011, Crowe said he was returning to club cricket at Cornwall with a view to making a comeback for Auckland, 15 years after he had retired. "Every now and then you find yourself drifting along. I needed to do something to stay at the top of things," Crowe told ESPNcricinfo." It's a little bit of fun but it's based on the need to get off my butt. When you get to my age, you need to do something. Physically, I am a person who needs more than going to gym. I need to fire myself up. I don't like swimming, cycling, or lifting weights. I can't climb, I can't run; why not bat? It's a serious goal to get fit but it's a fun and light-hearted attempt to see if a 48-year old can play and at what level. Unless you try you will never know." A thigh injury ended his comeback in his first innings.
Crowe was diagnosed with lymphoma in October 2012. "In the past, on travels during my cricket career, suffering salmonella and glandular fever has compromised me," he said at the time. "The result of a weakened immune system over the last two decades is basically why I have become exposed to this sort of disease." After going into remission for a while, Crowe revealed the cancer had returned in September 2014. "After a brilliant year of self discovery and recovery, I have more work to do. My friend and tough taskmaster Lymphoma is back to teach me," Crowe said on Twitter. "To say you can't beat lymphoma is not quite true, many have. Yet follicular lymphoma is incurable, and can be treated and tamed for many long years."
On February 28, 2015, Crowe was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame, during the World Cup. His presence at the final at the MCG was his last public appearance.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo