Martin Crowe
New Zealand cricketer Martin Crowe passed away at the age of 53 following a prolonged battle with cancer on ThursdayGetty

New Zealand cricketer Martin Crowe passed away on Thursday (3 March) after a prolonged battle with cancer. The prolific batsman, considered one of, if not the best the country has seen, was 53. The ex-Black Caps batsman was suffering from lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, for the second time.

The ex-New Zealand captain had received an all clear for his illness in 2012, but was diagnosed in September 2014 with terminal double hit lymphoma. The cricketer's family has released a statement following his passing and a funeral service will be held for him next Friday.

"It is with heavy hearts that the family of Martin Crowe, MBE advise his death. Diagnosed in September 2014 with terminal double hit lymphoma he passed away peacefully today, Thursday 3rd March in Auckland surrounded by family. The family request privacy at this time," the family's statement read, as quoted by the New Zealand Herald.

Crowe made his debut for the Black Caps in 1982 and still holds the record for the most number of test centuries with 17, four more than current batsmen Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. He captained his country between 1990 and 1993 and almost led them to their first World Cup final in 1992 with some fine individual performances. They lost to eventual winners Pakistan in the semi finals, but the influential batsman was named the player of the tournament for his four fifties and one century.

The 53-year-old was named New Zealand sportsman of the year in 1991 and was also awarded an MBE (Member of British Empire) for his contribution to the sport in New Zealand. A number of former cricketers have conveyed their condolences through social media, with Hollywood actor Russel Crowe, who is a cousin and friend leading the way.