KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe is making an audacious return to competitive cricket, aged 49.
Crowe, a member of MCC’s World Cricket Committee, made the first step in his remarkable return at the low-key reserve first grade level for Cornwall Cricket Club in Auckland last weekend.
He has his eyes fixed on a much higher goal though, and hopes to make a first, first-class appearance since 1996 when MCC plays Lancashire in the 2012 County Champion fixture in Abu Dhabi next March.
Crowe, also a successful TV executive, has described his return as a health and mental project - even a mid life crisis - but has left nobody under any illusion as to the depth of his ambition.
“I don’t have any regrets about this decision,” said the veteran of 77 Tests and 143 One Day Internationals.
“But I’m very keen to play in first grade cricket soon and not the reserves, where the coach has put me for now.”
Crowe’s return has attracted a large amount of press, both in New Zealand and throughout the cricketing world.
It is hard to doubt his past credentials – he is widely regarded as New Zealand’s finest batsman – or his determination, but does he really see his age as irrelevant?
“I had my hand-eye co-ordination and balance tested by the optometrist who did it back in 1992 and he’s found I’m 20% faster than back then,” he has said.
“But getting good runs in first grade cricket is the first step.”
Indeed, Crowe's confidence is high enough for him to set his sights on one match in particular - MCC's Champion County fixture, which will be played in day-night conditions with a pink ball for the third year running.
The WCC has been the driving force behind the Club’s experiments with a pink ball, in the hope of introducing day-night Tests in the near future, and Crowe wants to do his bit to publicise the format.
He added: “Hopefully an invite for the MCC will help me out!”
“I would like to help promote the pink ball by playing in Abu Dhabi next year. It is a neat goal to have at this early stage of my comeback.
“But I would need to be playing really well and be very fit to get a call-up.”
MCC Head of Cricket John Stephenson is aware of Crowe’s intention to be involved in the match and is monitoring his comeback closely.
The future of Test cricket has been a heavy focus for the WCC since its inception in April 2006.
Crowe admitted his frustration at the possible postponement of the inaugural World Test Championship – an idea championed by the WCC – from 2013 to 2017.
However, he remains hopeful that day-night Tests will become a reality, adding: “One day the day-night Test idea will dawn on people, it’s all about timing I guess.”
Lead by example
Crowe’s comeback aspirations might not stretch as far as adding to his Test runs tally of 5,444, at an average of 45.36, but Crowe is concerned at the current state of the Kiwi national team.
“We are ranked eighth in Test cricket, just ahead of Bangladesh and we almost lost to Zimbabwe recently, so clearly we are struggling and have done since 2004 when all our focus went on World Cups,” he said.
Former MCC Young Cricketer Ross Taylor has the difficult task of lifting a relative inexperienced side up the table.
Taylor has taken on Crowe’s mantle of the star batsman and skipper of the Kiwi side, and the elder statesman had some simple advice for the 27-year-old.
He said: “Ross can only control what's in front of him and that is the ball.”
“He is a fine player and needs to always lead by example.”
Taylor will in all likelihood be long retired by the time he reaches his 50th year, but in the meantime he could do a lot worse than to follow Crowe’s advice.
The MCC World Cricket Committee meets twice annually and provides an authoritative and independent voice on the game. The next meeting takes place in Cape Town in January.