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Cricket World Cup History: Martin Crowe, New Zealand’s inspiration in the 1992 edition

ANALYST
Feature
325   //    31 May 2019, 15:34 IST

Martin Crowe
Martin Crowe

Martin Crowe’s maiden appearance in the World Cup was symbolic of his stature as one of the finest batsmen of the modern era. Crowe was not yet 21 when his team was waging a hopeless battle against England in 1983. The hosts piled up 322 runs, and when Crowe came in, the Kiwis had slipped to 62 for four.

While he played a superb innings, there was little support to be had at the other end. Though it was a lost cause he attacked the bowling and scored a brilliant 97 off 118 balls with 8 fours. He was the last man dismissed, run out off the last ball of the 59th over.

While he was at the crease a total of 154 runs were scored, and the next highest in the innings was 23. That was how dominant the young Crowe was, and that too in an impossible situation.

Those were still early days in his career. He had made an indifferent foray in the international arena, so this innings must have given the young Crowe immense confidence.

He scored a useful 34 in the next game against Pakistan, batting even lower - at No. 7. He put on 46 runs for the sixth wicket with Jeremy Coney, standing firm against some perplexing bowling by the leg-spinning wizard, Abdul Qadir.

This show of defiance tilted the balance in favour of New Zealand as Qadir’s outstanding all-round display went in vain.

Crowe was then promoted to No. 4 but he met with immediate disaster, Sri Lankan pacer Asantha de Mel having him caught behind for a duck. There were further disappointments as he managed just 20 and 8 in the next two matches. Then against Pakistan he batted soundly to score 43, but his side was beaten narrowly and made its exit from the tournament.

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For Crowe, it was a learning experience. He had scored 202 runs at an average of 33.66, just behind the most successful Kiwi batsman, skipper Geoff Howarth. 

By 1987 Crowe was unarguably New Zealand’s best batsman. He top-scored with 72 against Zimbabwe off 88 deliveries, having hit a six and 5 fours. He put on 84 runs for the second wicket with Martin Snedden, who appeared in the unusual role of opener.

Then as the big-hitting David Houghton powered the Zimbabweans on with an amazing innings of 142 and staged a tremendous rearguard action in association with Iain Butchart, Crowe took the catch of the tournament. He plunged headlong after sprinting a long way against the flight; it was a magical moment that made the difference between victory and defeat.

Crowe came up triumphant with the ball as Houghton departed, and the tide turned. The Kiwis won by three runs with two balls to spare.

Crowe made only 9 versus India. But in the match against Australia, truncated due to rain, Crowe hit a fine 58 off just 48 balls with 5 fours. That was not enough to prevent a three-run defeat in the 30-overs-a-side game.

Another knock of 58 at a run-a-ball embellished with 8 boundaries, and a stand of 69 for the fourth wicket with elder brother and captain Jeff, helped his side register an easy win over Zimbabwe in the return encounter. The last two matches were not too productive for Crowe, and New Zealand bowed out of the tournament.

When the Kiwis co-hosted the event in 1992, Crowe was one of the premier batsmen in the world, perhaps the best. He was in terrific form with the bat, and provided inspirational leadership to his team before enthralled home crowds.

The side won seven matches on the trot before losing the last league game to eventual champions, Pakistan. Then in the semi-final, also against Pakistan, they had to face defeat again. But it was an outstanding Kiwi performance in the tournament right till those last two matches.

Crowe was a prolific scorer throughout the tournament. As New Zealand upset reigning champions Australia in the opening encounter at Auckland, Crowe scored a brilliant unbeaten 100 off 134 balls punctuated by 11 boundaries. He put on 118 for the fourth wicket with Ken Rutherford, and then had off-spinner Dipak Patel open the bowling to the bewildered Aussies.

Though Australia began well, with David Boon scoring a fine century, they fell behind the required run-rate. Crowe was man-of-the-match.

As the Kiwis marched on triumphantly, Crowe was not much in evidence with the bat in the two subsequent games. But in the rain-marred match against Zimbabwe at Napier, Crowe was at his dazzling best again.

With the weather allowing only 20.5 overs to his side, Crowe fired the fastest half-century of the World Cup, off only 30 deliveries, equaling the earlier feats of Chris Old and Imran Khan. This mark was later bettered and eventually Brendon McCullum hit a fifty off 18 balls in 2015.

Crowe went on to blast an unbeaten 74 off 44 balls, rocketing 8 fours and 2 sixes. It was the performance of a champion. He put on 129 for the third wicket with Andrew Jones. The Zimbabweans had no reply to such firepower.

The big test was against the West Indies, and Crowe passed it with flying colours. With the former champions managing only 203, Crowe came in at 97 for two and hit a blistering unbeaten 81 off as many deliveries, with 12 boundaries.

Neither Curtly Ambrose nor Malcolm Marshall could stop him. Crowe brought up victory by five wickets and bagged his second successive man-of-the-match award. 

In the outing against India he was run out for 26, but when his side met an undefeated England, Crowe was back among the runs. An English score of 200 was hardly enough to test the fired up New Zealanders. Crowe scored 73 not out off 81 balls with four hits to the fence, and added 108 for the third wicket with Andrew Jones - which effectively took the match away from England. 

The last league match saw the start of a downswing for New Zealand, just as Pakistan were on the ascendant. Crowe was dismissed by Wasim Akram for 3, and with him went Kiwi hopes.

In the semi-final against the same opponents, Crowe was back in scintillating form. He took only 83 balls to hit 91, and put on 107 for the fourth wicket with Rutherford. He was run out after seven hits to the boundary and three over it.

But much as Crowe and his team tried to stop them, Pakistan managed to win by four wickets with an over to spare.

It was a moving sight as the Kiwi players waved to the cheering home crowd. Even though they were edged out, they had done their countrymen proud, none more so than Martin Crowe.

For the first time, New Zealand had looked like a team that could win the World Cup. Crowe topped the run-aggregates as well as the averages for the tournament with 456 runs at 114 per innings. He was the player-of-the-tournament - dubbed world champion - and drove off with a Nissan 300 car as his prize.

Peter Roebuck summed up his enthralling performance: “Nothing has been more enjoyable this summer than seeing Martin Crowe batting with such authority, leading his unconsidered team to a World Cup semi-final.”

Crowe compiled nearly 900 runs in the premier tournament at a 50-plus average and strike-rate of 83.49. Even as a damaged knee hampered his movements during the later stages of his career, Crowe remained a majestic batsman, a sheer delight to watch. His timing and strokeplay were exquisite, head right over the ball, and when he was on song there were few sights as pleasing on a cricket field.

Along with Bert Sutcliffe and Glenn Turner, Martin Crowe formed a trinity of the best batsmen produced by New Zealand before the newer generations emerged.

Martin Crowe’s World Cup batting and fielding records:

Matches 21, Highest Score 100*, Runs 880, Average 55.00, Strike-rate 83.49, Hundred 1, Fifties 8, Catches 8

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