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Barry Shepherd: Nine Tests, only to pursue an alternative career

Barry Shepherd amassed 502 runs in nine Tests at 41.83 for Australia. Photo Courtesy: Quicksales. On left side of the photo one can see Barry Shepherd's enteace at WACA. Ben Sutherland's Flickr account
Barry Shepherd’s entrance at WACA. Photo Courtesy: Ben Sutherland’s Flickr account. Inset: Barry Shepherd. Photo Courtesy: Quicksales

Former Western Australian captain Barry Shepherd was born on April 23, 1937. Despite not scoring a single hundred, Shepherd went onto have a short but respectable Test career, along with making prominent contributions in Australian Rules football and hockey. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the Sheffield Shield champion who went onto become a Director of the Australia Cricket Board (ACB).

There are not many all-round athletes who quit sports at an early age to pursue a career in commerce and administration, but Barry Kenneth Shepherd was one of them. A gutsy yet powerful southpaw from Western Australia (WA), Shepherd was unfortunate to play his cricket in a decade when Australian had a remarkably strong batting line-up. Shepherd was still good enough to break through and had showcased his worth during his short tenure.

Shepherd played hockey as a fullback for WA, and had won an all-Australian selection. He was an excellent Australian Rules footballer who had represented WA at school-level twice; he was also named the best player on the first year of his selection in Tasmania; in the same year he won the runner-up for the same event, this time at Melbourne; and obtained a contract from Richmond Football Club, which he promptly turned down.

From 110 First-Class matches Shepherd had scored 6,384 runs at 41.16 with 13 hundreds (three of which were double-hundreds, all of which ranged between 212 and 219); the numbers are even more impressive, since a lot of them were played on the bouncy Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground.

Shepherd played against four different oppositions (India and New Zealand were the only ones he had missed); he scored 502 runs at 41.83 with five fifties, but never got to the three-figure mark. Shepherd remains the only Test batsmen to have scored over 500 runs, not score a hundred, and still average over 40.

Early days

Born in Donnybrook, Shepherd was too talented to concentrate on one sport in his young days. He went on to make his First-Class debut against Queensland at home at an age of 18, and rescued WA from 87 for six to 268 for eight in the second innings. He dominated Ray Lindwall, Ken Mackay, and Ron Archer to score an unbeaten 103.

In the process Shepherd became the second WA batsman to score a hundred on his Sheffield Shield debut after John Shea and Alexander Barras (Ken Meuleman had also scored a hundred on his debut for WA before Shepherd, but that was against the touring South Africans).

The 1960s saw Shepherd being catapulted from an also-ran to a Test probable. By then he had also been named captain of WA. Queensland had Wes Hall for 1961-62 (WA had Rohan Kanhai); WA had trailed by 192 at WACA and were down to 53 for two when Shepherd had walked out to join Kanhai. For once the Guyanese took a backseat as Shepherd scored 212 not out from a score of 337 during his stay at the crease.

Shepherd scored 777 runs at 64.75 in that season’s Sheffield Shield, finishing only 13 short of Bill Lawry (who had 790 at 56.42). The next season took off with Shepherd scoring 114 and 91 not out against the touring MCC at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), followed by a career-best of 219 against Victoria at the same ground. He scored 618 at 56.18 that Sheffield Shield, and his season tally read 1,001 at 52.68. He made his Test debut against England at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) the next season after England had gone one-up in the series.

At the top level

Lawry fell early after Alan Davidson and, of all people, Bobby Simpson, bowled out the tourists for 279. Simpson and Neil Harvey added 160 in 174 minutes, and just when all seemed well for Australia, an outstanding spell from Fred Titmus left them reeling at 216 for six.

Davidson joined the debutant Shepherd, and the repair-work started; Shepherd was cautious, and after a couple of boundaries Davidson fell to Titmus; Richie Benaud played a hand too; the pair ran frantically for quick singles to add 32 in 26 minutes before Benaud and Graham McKenzie fell in quick succession. Australia were ahead by a solitary run when Colin Guest, another debutant, walked out to join Shepherd.

It was then that Shepherd took charge: Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, and Titmus were all dominated as he shifted gears; Guest held up one end as Shepherd reached his fifty, and took Australia past the 300-mark. The pair added 39 before Statham clean bowled Guest: Shepherd’s 151-ball unbeaten 71 had resulted in a 39-run lead. England then folded for 104 against Davidson and McKenzie, and Australia squared the series.

Shepherd was retained for the next Test at Adelaide Oval; it ended in a draw with Shepherd scoring 10 and 13. He was replaced by Peter Burge in the final Test at SCG; Burge top-scored with 103, and with Lawry, Simpson, Harvey, and Norman O’Neill dominating the top-order (with Brian Booth and Burge for company) things looked bleak for Shepherd.

Fortunately for Shepherd, Harvey quit after the series, Shepherd was recalled for the second Test against South Africa at MCG. After McKenzie shot the tourists out for 274 Lawry and the debutant Ian Redpath added 219 for the opening stand. Walking out with the responsibility of batting South Africa out of the Test, Shepherd shepherded the tail (if you mind the pun), scoring a career-best 96 to bat them out of the Test. Australia won by eight wickets.

Shepherd was retained for the rest of the series: he scored 70 and 78 at Adelaide Oval, but Australia were drowned by a 341-run partnership between Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock. The last Test was drawn, and the series was levelled 1-1. He also played the one-off Test against Pakistan at MCG and scored 55.

By this time Bob Cowper and Grahame Thomas had also appeared on the scenario, and Shepherd was left out of the first three Tests of the Frank Worrell Trophy that followed. Then, with Australia down 0-2, he was recalled at Kensington Oval where both Lawry and Simpson scored double-hundreds, adding 382 for the opening stand. West Indies clinched the rubber as the Test was drawn.

The final Test at Queen’s Park Oval saw McKenzie and Neil Hawke at their best; Shepherd played his part, scoring a crucial 38 as Australia won the Test by ten wickets. He never played another Test.

Back to domestic cricket

Shepherd played Sheffield Shield for another season (as captain), finishing with 560 runs with five fifties. His final match came against New South Wales (NSW) at WACA, where he scored 46. Thereafter he quit First-Class cricket altogether to pursue an alternative career. He was only 28. Shepherd never won the Sheffield Shield as a player, but he played a major role in their triumph in 1967-68.

Post-retirement

Shepherd took up a career in the finance industry and soon made it to the top echelons of the society. He did not give up his connection with cricket, and soon joined WACA as a Member of the Executive Committee in 1979, continuing till the turn of the millennium.

In 1985 Shepherd was awarded Life Membership of WACA. In 1988 he was offered a role as a Director of the ACB, which he accepted. He continued till 2000 as a part of the Board’s Executive, Umpires Appointments and Interstate Cricket Committees.

ACB Chairman Denis Rogers later said: “As a player at both State and International level and as a passionate and dedicated administrator, Mr (Barry) Shepherd provided Australian cricket with invaluable support.”

Shepherd was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to cricket in 1999. He passed away September 17, 2001 at Fremantle. He was 64 years 148 days old. They have named Barry Richards Entrance at WACA. There is also a Barry Shepherd Medal since 2013.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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