It’s 1992 for New Zealand all over again. The team is in the form of its life and Brendon McCullum, Trent Boult, Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee are taking turns in wrecking oppositions.
Maybe they’re doing it for Martin.
Martin being Martin Crowe, the charismatic and legendary New Zealander who led his team with distinction and on a dream run in the 1992 World Cup until they ran into a brickwall called Pakistan. I became a fan of Martin Crowe the writer. His cricket career ended when I was just about getting interested in the game. Thankfully, his writing career coincided with my own interest in cricket and sport writing. New Zealand has given the game icons like Sir Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe. Chris Cairns, who at one point was considered the best all-rounder in the business went from fame to infamy because of his alleged deals with bookies. The side has reached the semi-finals in the World Cup six times and their dream run in the ’92 edition is still is part of folklore.
In 2015, the New Zealand team is unlike any we have witnessed before. Led by Brendon McCullum, whose torpedo like batting at the top of the order can sink bowling units in no time, the side has gone from good to great when no one was looking. Trent Boult and Tim Southee are casting batsmen into fire and brimstone. Daniel Vettori is aging like fine wine. In the match against England, Southee tore into the England attack like a lion that had just caught scent of its prey. It didn’t help that England have been like a deer caught in the headlights throughout this World Cup. And when you’re so woefully out of sorts, running into a raging Tim Southee doesn’t do wonders for your confidence, a lesson that England learned the hard way. At the other end, Trent Boult doesn’t necessarily deal in hurtling lightning bolts but his stubborn accuracy and the ease with which he swings the ball both ways has resulted in defining spells. In the match against Australia, he accounted for five wickets. Australia were going hammer and tongs before it all fell apart. Even when New Zealand took the field, Brendon McCullum looked like he had plans for an early dinner before Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson almost crashed the party.
As the World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, is inching towards the business end, Martin Crowe’s journey too is reaching the end. The only difference is that the World Cup will be back 4 years later and unless a medical miracle materializes, Martin Crowe won’t be around to see it. Suffering from a rare form of cancer, he has a 5 percent chance of living up to a year. Recently inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame, he took strike for one last time for his old side, Cornwell Club. This wasn’t retirement. This was it. Unsure of lasting even an over, he scored 25 off 20 balls.
Having opted out of the brutalities of chemotherapy, Martin Crowe is taking it a day at a time; easier said than done when you don’t know which day could be the curtain call. I haven’t gotten a sneak peek into Martin Crowe’s bucket list but if he indeed has one, seeing New Zealand lift the World Cup on March 29th should surely be on it. He wasn’t sure if he would live to see 2015. He’s lived long enough to see his country field one of its strongest sides ever and attempt to go where no New Zealand side has ever gone. Somewhere on the back of their minds must be the fact that one of their best captain’s looking at death squarely in the eye.
Brendon McCullum’s aggression seems to have rubbed off on the Kiwis and in spite of having many doubters, the side has gained momentum and are now pegged to win the cup. Ricky Ponting has predicted an Australia-New Zealand final.
I don’t know much but at least this much is true. If Brendon McCullum bats like Red Bull’s unofficial ambassador and Tim Southee and Trent Boult take turns in sending down toe crushers that leave batsmen bereft of answers, New Zealand may just go the distance. If Daniel Vettori gets them the breakthroughs like he did against the match against Australia, New Zealand may just give their supporters something that has always eluded them.
One of the endearing images from the 1992 World Cup was that of Dipak Patel, an off-break bowler opening the bowling for New Zealand. It was one of Martin Crowe’s masterstrokes. He attempted to make a comeback to first-class cricket at the age of 49 in 2011 before his cancer diagnosis all but ended his ambitions. Now he watches from the sidelines, hoping for one final memory to add to his tally of amazing memories.
They say that your whole life flashes before you before your eyes when you’re about to die. Sadly, Martin Crowe is clutching at the last straws of his mortality.
And if New Zealand lifting the cup is one of his final memories, what a fantastic end to his fine innings it will be.
P.S – The piece was written during the World Cup. New Zealand’s wonderful run didn’t culminate in a win as they lost to Australia in the final.