Raw by Martin Crowe
Wellington: Trio Books, 2013 ISBN 9780986461569
It seems that recently cricket has been overtaken by far too many deaths - the tragedy of Phillip Hughes, the icon Richie Benaud, Tony Greig taken before he was ready: and the writer of the book being reviewed, Martin Crowe, dead at 53 from lymphoma.
Martin would surely be thought of by many as New Zealand's greatest batsman (although Kane Williamson seems on track to overtake him), and no doubt thought of by all as a difficult, prickly character, which he acknowledges in this book. Crowe began writing this book after his diagnosis, and it lives up to its title: writing this was no doubt an act of catharsis for him, as he lays bare his own failures, as well as exposing those whom he felt had failed him and New Zealand cricket.
The first section of the book is not a biography per se, but Crowe looking back on his life and career and picking apart his attitude to life and sport. Fear was his major driver, and the lack of support shown by those in the cricket hierarchy who dropped him into major teams at extremely young ages did nothing to assuage that emotion. Crowe has some interesting things to say about former teammates and managers, and how they not only affected him emotionally, but how they dragged the team down as well.
In fact he has a fair bit to say on how the structures and people around cricket in New Zealand seem to be continually trying to kill what they claim to love, with some good chapters about the Ross Taylor captaincy affair, John Bracewell's stint as coach, and the machinations of the Board.
Crowe also talks of his time at Fox Sports, and how the machinations within that organisation matched or exceeded those he found within cricket. He writes of all this as therapy, letting go of the bitterness and anger he felt while describing what it was that led him to feel those emotions.
He also writes of his personal life, his relationship with his father and his other loved ones, but not so much about his cricket life, which he had covered in two previous books.
The second section of the book is about cricket, and Martin's views on the game. He describes his venture into tinkering with the game, Cricket Max, his (failed) efforts to implement a sensible DRS system for the game, his views on Stephen Fleming and snapshots of the New Zealand team of the 1980s, perhaps their greatest era. He writes of technique, and his short stint in the hierarchy of an IPL franchise.
The last section contains his lists of best players from the era 1870-1961 and from 1961-present, with his reasons for those choices. He lists the best teams for each country through history and then his all-time best team, which, like all well thought-out exercises such as this would be cause of much argument around the bar of any Cricketer's Arms.
Overall this is an interesting and worthwhile book from an interesting and worthwhile cricketer. The chapter in which he writes of a fantasy test match between the best of the old era vs. the best of the modern era is poignant now after his death: one can almost imagine him on the heavenly sward, the trademark floppy hat and steely glint in the eye, bending over his bad to face a thunderbolt from Trueman.
A sad loss too early.
Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell