Ever since I saw him batting in the nets when he was 14 years of age, I have been an avid follower of Martin Crowe's cricket career. That is almost 40 years ago. There is one thing I have learned. Every encounter with MD Crowe will yield wisdom and emotion  - or, a little head and heart.

His latest book, Raw, is no exception. Don't be fooled by the title, or the press coverage. There is a lot of cricketing wisdom here (mainly in the second half). He combines creative and critical thinking about cricket. The best chapters in the book are the ones on (a) the 'Technology Wars' (171-184) - which he addresses both as cricketer and broadcaster, with a surprising sympathy towards India's stance on the Decision Review System; (b) the IPL/Twenty20 (185-193) - 'the quiet, old, long game had turned into a loud, new, short frenzy' (186) ... and 'something has to give' and it is hard not to agree with his desire to see Twenty20 be solely a domestic game played by clubs, not nations; and (c) 'A Century-Maker's Bible - How to Bat Six Hours in a Test (281-301), stuffed with good ideas/illustrations about leadership for those with eyes to see. Helped along by quotations from Don Bradman and Greg Chappell, he addresses issues like avoiding comfort zones, being over-coached, and practicing as you wish to play.

But it is on the first half of the book where everyone focuses and Crowe's emotions - most notably, his battle with cancer. But it is not the only battle he has faced. Such was his prodigious talent, he was always pressed into representative teams at a far younger age than his team mates. For example, at 15 years of age he was playing in the NZ Under-20 team. This issue is at the core of his struggle with life. It draws a lot of compassion from me. He was never given the opportunity to grow up and mature  'Many thought I would grow up quickly. I did physically, but emotionally it went the other way' (16). At a later stage he realised that his 'on-going problem' was 'a disconnected spirit and soul overwhelmed by the ego and the emotional instability created from my unfinished teenage development' (55). From that foundation all sorts of stuff happened. A broken marriage, a child from a second relationship - before marrying Lorraine. The early death of his much-loved Dad didn't help. Then there were the health issues with a debilitating knee injury curtailing what would have been a brilliant career, salmonella, depression, and cancer.

As I've watched (still as a fan, from a distance), my hunch is that while Crowe is smart and skilled (head and hand, if you like), the dis-ease at the level of emotion (heart) has complicated his life so much. This is a lesson for all of us to learn. The enduring irony is that, until recently, he has been far better at batting an innings than living an innings. On the pitch, pursuing hundreds with a flawless style that brought the textbook on batting to life, his temperament was remarkable - but off the pitch, doing life with people, he appeared to be a bit of a magnet for conflict because his temperament was not up to it. He exercises poor judgement and makes mistakes often. He is candid about this. I admire his courage. He has managed to find himself in the midst of match-fixing scandals, racism allegations, personality conflicts, relationship breakdowns, employment battles, and sexuality rumours. And then he is just a little self-absorbed and introspective which, when combined with the 'tall poppy' thing in NZ, makes him a person to which the average Kiwi does not feel drawn. It is kinda sad, I reckon. But he is learning the power of forgiveness (although I've always prayed that it would be the Jesus brand of forgiveness that would capture him) - and I cannot help feeling that appearing on TV interviews (with this book), unconcerned about being bald is also a step in the right direction too. He appears so much more healthy and whole. That is good.

Then - just for the cricket fan - he has all his lists on great players and great teams ... and even imagines (with commentary) a Test match between two teams filled with the greatest players of all time. And I enjoyed his annotated comments and stories on different players as he goes through...

On Don Bradman: 'the standout was simply his ability to move from one innings to another, physically and mentally' (206).
On Viv Richards: 'From 1976 to 1984 he played like no other ... In Jamaica I bounced him, a good one, too, but he saw it early and never moved a muscle as the ball soared up past his right temple. Instead of looking to see where the ball went, he just kept staring at me and then burst out laughing at my attempt. I was firmly put in my place' (214).
On Sachin Tendulkar: 'His attitude throughout has been impeccable, almost divine' (215).
On Ricky Ponting: he 'pulled balls that were drivable' (216).
On Michael Holding: 'He had an uncanny knack of making you dread the moment when he started that lovely smooth run-up' (231).
On Jeff Thomson: 'he bowled at me in my first Test ... he came out of the Norwood Room's dark corners and flung the ball at me for five overs. He hit me on the head three times ... He pitched up twice. The first one I jabbed down and got four because no-one was fielding in front of the wicket. The second one I got to mid-on and called for an easy single. Geoff Howarth, at the non-striker's end, was sitting on his bat enjoying the view. He woke up late and sent me back so Thommo, having gathered the ball himself, raced me to the striker's end and he took the bails off to run me out. My first Test innings was no walk in the park' (235).

nice chatting - and thank-you, MD Crowe, for the delight you have brought to this cricket fan over so many years. I am pleased that you have found a greater peace in your life because you have endured some tough stuff - but I will keep praying that you will be drawn into a life of peace with Jesus.



Through my work I was able to see this lad growing up (Cornwall & Grammar). I times I taught coached and played (very much on the distant fringe) with Martin. I considered he was quite the best batsman this country has ever seen. I concur with your comments about him Paul and believe that along with Hadley, they were the greatest (maybe only) genuine world class cricketers that we have produced. However Martin's revelations in Raw, were evident, even in the teenagers prodigious talent. However, such is the burden the most gifted so frequently seem to have to carry with them in living their lives. Depression and sometimes self harm may be the outworking of this. Such adulation of the talent, yet the disconnect with the person is something the less gifted do not understand. Tim Cooper
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