Eddie Barlow: 12 interesting things to know about the South African all-rounder

 Edgar John ‘Eddie’ Barlow, born August 12, 1940, was an all-rounder whose career was interrupted by the apartheid ban on South Africa. A resolute opening batsman and skilful medium-pacer, Barlow was an integral member of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Shiamak Unwalla looks at 12 interesting things to know about a man who is considered among the greatest all-rounders of his era.


1.  Bunter

Words like “suave” or “dashing” could never be used to describe the slightly rotund, bespectacled Eddie Barlow. It was said at his Pretoria school that Barlow was so short-sighted he could “see no further than the front wheel of his bicycle.” His physicality and spectacles earned him the nickname “Bunter,” based on the character of Billy Bunter, a fictional character who has appeared in various novels, TV, and plays.


2.  Misleading figure

Despite his weight and apparent lack of physical fitness, the truth could not be further. Barlow was a sensational fielder, especially at slip, and his perceived girth was actually more muscle than fat. His former captain Dr Ali Bacher once said, “Barlow was a superb athlete. He played rugby for Transvaal, and if he had continued playing rugby, he may well have gone on to play for South Africa.


3. Super all-rounder

An opening batsman of considerable talent, Barlow was also more than proficient with the ball. He bowled medium-pace, but with the air of an outright fast bowler. It was said of him that on a tricky pitch there were few bowlers more effective than Barlow. In addition to his batting and bowling, he was also an excellent fielder and an occasional wicketkeeper.


4.  Hat-trick for World XI

Barlow was one of the players who turned out for Rest of the World against England in unofficial Tests. In 1970 he entered cricketing folklore by taking four wickets in five balls, including a hat-trick, at Headingley in the fourth ‘Test’. This after scoring back-to-back centuries in the first two ‘Tests’ of that series.

5.  Apartheid blow

Barlow was virtually a permanent fixture in South Africa’s Test side from his debut in 1961 to South Africa’s final Test before the apartheid ban in 1970. As a result he could play only 30 Tests, in which he scored 2,516 runs at 45.74 with six centuries and 15 fifties. He also took 40 wickets at 34.05 with one fifer. Had his career not been interrupted by the ban, he could have gone down as one of the finest all-rounders of his era.


6.  Derbyshire captain

One of Barlow’s most productive stints was as captain of Derbyshire. He was made captain of the side in 1976, and the impact he made was immediate. Barlow emphasised on fitness of his players, taking Derbyshire from a mediocre side to one that reached a final at Lord’s in just a year.


7.  Post-playing days

After his retirement, Barlow was a pig farmer and later owned a vineyard. He also tried his hand at politics, and was a candidate for the Progressive Party, but failed to get elected. He then coached Gloucestershire in 1990-91, and Bangladesh in 1999.


8.  Sense of humour

Derek Hodgson wrote of him in The Independent that Barlow had an obvious sense of humour. While at Derbyshire, he would greet journalists by saying things like, “Now then, you devious bastards, what are you going to stuff me with today?”


9.  Stroke of misfortune

While coaching Bangladesh in 2000, Barlow suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed. He was confined to a wheelchair, though he could walk with great difficulty. He had to give up his post as Bangladesh head coach.


10.  Ever gritty

Even partial paralysis could not hamper Barlow’s spirit. He continued his coaching after moving to north Wales. He played a huge role in the development of cricket for the disabled. He remained active till another stroke ended his life in 2005.


11.  Cricketing honours

Barlow was named one of South Africa’s Annual Cricketers of the Year in 1962. His funeral was attended by a number of former cricketers, each of whom Barlow had influenced in some way. Tributes flowed in from his former captains as well his wards.


12.  Anti-apartheid

It was perhaps one of the greatest ironies that Barlow’s career came to an end because of the apartheid given that he was personally staunchly liberal and even tried his hand at politics as a candidate for the Progressive Party.

(Shiamak Unwalla is a proud Whovian and all-round geek who also dabbles in cricket writing as a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)