Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand captain, has said that he is contemplating a return to first-class cricket 15 years after retiring from it. Crowe, 48, said he sees it as a means of self-motivation and a tool to get fit - and also an opportunity to score the 392 runs he needs to tally 20,000 first-class runs.
He will first turn out for the Cornwall cricket club before deciding on plans to play for Auckland Central Districts.
"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."
He then added, with a laugh, "Hey! If Ganguly can do it, anyone can do it!" Shane Warne has been amazing and as a spin bowler he can probably bowl like that for a long time to come. Gilchrist has kept himself fit. It's human nature to feel that you are top of things."
It's also human nature that makes some fans wary of sportspersons making comebacks at such an age. The thought of watching their once-favourite player struggling doesn't sit too well with some fans. Some even consider such comeback attempts to be a bit sad on the part of the player but Crowe said he didn't subscribe to that view. "No. if I had done that at the age of 37-38, then may be your concerns would be valid. If I had done it then, it would have been sad. At that stage you are trying to make a comeback to international cricket. Now, I don't have any aspiration to play international cricket. I gave up then because of my knee. I am interested to see if a 48-year old can bat. It's probably unlikely. It's probably only heard of at average club level. But that's what we are going to check out."
Crowe said he drew inspiration from Adam Parore and Mark Richardson. "Parore is about to climb Mount Everest and Mark Richardson is about to do four marathons this year. I realised I needed to something that wasn't just about getting fit but oriented towards something I would have fun doing. My friend texted me: 'Why don't you try knocking off 20,000 first-class runs? You have 392 to go.' And I thought that's the perfect answer. Why don't I take a bat in my hand and see what happens when summer comes around. At the same time it could be fun because here in New Zealand the batting is in a little bit of decline and it will be a good way to see where the techniques are at."
Crowe was forced to quit international cricket due to his bad knee, with few career goals still unfinished. "I'm happy with my career except for the fact that I finished on a downer, with an injury. I suppose I wanted 20 hundreds, 6000 runs, but in the end I was not physically capable of hanging on. And a lot of politics came in to it. Howarth as coach was a joke, and I played under Lee Germon, which was ridiculous," he had once said in a 2008 interview.
After retirement, Crowe underwent an operation to his knee. "By the time I was 40, I couldn't even walk. I had a major operation called an osteotomy; it gives you 15 years of interim relief until you are old enough to have an artificial knee. I have felt good with this operation in the last 4-5 years. I have been playing regular golf and walking with no discomfort. I just feel I need to do a little bit more as I am lacking focus on something. So I have come up with this."
"My vision is pretty good. One of the challenges is to see how the nerves hold out - when a 20-year old is bowling at you, how do you feel about it? And I am quite keen to find out what's that like."Martin Crowe
The last time he picked up the bat was last March, when he turned out in a charity game for the Christchurch earthquake called 'Fill the Basin'. Crowe made six runs, which included a boundary, before falling to Stephen Fleming. "I play regular golf and I have played cricket occasionally over the years. Two years ago, I took the New Zealand team to Hong Kong sixes and I did a lot of practice. When I was in Bangalore for IPL in 2008 as coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore, I did a lot of practice before the main players turned up. I faced a lot of Sunil Joshi in the nets. I felt good, fit. I know I can still use the bat, it's the case of whether the body holds up, and how long the foot will keep moving until everything seizes up."
Crowe said he will stop playing when he gets close to risking an injury and shared his thoughts on facing young pace bowlers. "Getting injured is going to be a high probability. When it starts getting to that stage, you stop. The quest is over. I want to see how far I can push myself. I will start with club cricket and if all goes well, then that far-fetched dream of getting 20,000 runs is earned. That's the Everest, the goal I am giving myself. I am pretty confident that I can play nice and straight and score runs with my ability to hit the ball where I want to. My eye-sight is pretty good. One of the challenges is to see how the nerves hold out - when a 20-year old is bowling at you, how do you feel about it? And I am quite keen to find out what's that like. As soon as I get a feeling that it's all too hard, that's fine'; we shall pack it up. To walk out and play competitive cricket is the goal."
Crowe will return to his spiritual cricket home at the Cornwall cricket ground in Auckland. "I started there when I was six years old. That's where my father's ashes are. That's where my family was brought up in cricketing sense."
Batting against pace might excite him but what about fielding at this age, and at what position will he field? "I like the gully," Crowe said with a laugh. Asked whether he will consider turning out for New Zealand if he succeeds at the club and first-class levels, Crowe deadpanned: "Now you are getting silly mate!"
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo