Ken Barrington: 10 interesting things to know about the much-loved England legend
Ken Barrington may have been a dour, virtually strokeless batter, but one would be hard-pressed to find a picture of Barrington without a bright smile on his face.
Kenneth Frank Ken Barrington, born November 24, 1930, was one of England's greatest batsmen and one of the most-loved cricketers of his era. He may have been a dour, virtually strokeless batter, but one would be hard-pressed to find a picture of Barrington without a bright smile on his face. On his 86th birth anniversary, Shiamak Unwalla lists out 10 interesting things about the ever-smiling English legend.
1. Not an average Joe: With 6,806 runs at a staggering average of 58.67, Barrington is seventh in the list of batsmen with the best Test batting average with a 1,000-run cut-off. However, if that cut-off is raised to 2,500 runs, then Barrington breaks into the top three behind only Don Bradman (99.94) and Herbert Sutcliffe (60.73).
2. None too shabby with the ball: Barrington started off as a medium-pacer and later took to leg-spin before focusing on his batting (more on that later). He took 29 wickets in Tests at 44.82 including best figures of 3 for 4, but his First-Class numbers are far more impressive. He took 273 wickets at 32.61 with as many as eight five-wicket hauls and best figures of 7 for 40.
3. Phenomenal numbers: Impressive as his bowling numbers may have been (for a part-timer) Barringon s true greatness lay in his batting. As we have already seen, his average of 58.67 is the third-best among batsmen with at least 2,500 Test runs. However, what is even more impressive is that while most batsmen struggle against specific opponenets or in certain countries, Barrington was excellent across the spectrum. He averaged 69.73 in Australia, 96.28 in India, 73.50 in New Zealand, 76.33 in Pakistan, 101.60 in South Africa, and 44.25 in West Indies. He was actually less effective against South Africa and West Indies in England, but dominated them when he travelled to their backyards. In fact, he scored his first two Test centuries in West Indies (at Barbados and Port of Spain) against an attack including Wes Hall, Sonny Ramadhin, Chester Watson, Frank Worrell, and Garry Sobers. Incidentally, his last Test century too came at Port of Spain.
4. Distinguished ground staffer: Barrington was told as a young man that he would never make a living in cricket. Whether or not he was discouraged might not be known, but he instead joined the ground staff at Surrey. There he was noticed by Andy Sandham, who asked him to focus on batting since Surrey already had a rich spin reserve in Jim Laker and Tony Lock. Legendary pacer Alec Bedser saw Barrington bat and predicted that he would play Test cricket.
5. Strange discrepancies: That Barrington was a great Test batsman is unquestionable. However, if a layman was to look only at his First-Class numbers, he would not stand out as the legend that he is. In 533 matches, he scored 31,714 runs at 45.63 excellent numbers to be sure, but not quite 58.67. There have been a number of cricketers who averaged more in Tests than in First-Class cricket (Don Bradman averaged a paltry 95 in First-Class) but the staggering difference of 13 runs for Barrington is virtually unparalleled.
Moreover, Barrington seemed to thrive in away conditions far more than he did in his own backyard. In 46 home Tests, he scored 3,347 runs at 50.71 (again, excellent numbers) but in 36 away Tests he scored 3,459 runs at a phenomenal 69.18! This makes him the second best away batsman of all time (behind Bradman) in terms of average with a 1,000-run cut-off. And unlike Bradman, he played in India, Pakistan, West Indies, New Zealand, and South Africa.
6. Forced retirement: Barrington was going strong and scoring runs right till the end of his Test career. He took part in the maiden double-wicket tournament in England, where he collapsed while playing. He recovered later, but he was diagnosed with thrombosis which prompted him to announce his Test retirement aged 38.
7. Much-loved manager: After bowing out from Tests, Barrington continued his association with the game by becoming a manager. He managed English tours to Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and West Indies. It was in the West Indies that he breathed his last.
8. Sudden tragedy: Barrington was England s assistant manager on the tour to West Indies in 1980-81. The England side had talent like Graham Gooch, David Gower, Mike Gatting and Ian Botham, all of whom were close to Barrington. The first Test at Barbados the venue of Barrington s maiden Test century became a tragic one for England as Barrington passed away on the night of the first day due to another heart attack.
9. An illustrious birthdate: November 23 could well be England's most revered birthdate, given the legends who were born this day across history. Apart from Barrington, November 23 is also the birthdate of Herbert Sutcliffe, Ian Botham, and Fred Titmus. To a much lesser degree, it is also the birthdate of Romesh Kaluwitharana, Amit Mishra, Brijesh Patel, Neil McKenzie, Ian Butler, and Kabir Ali.
10. Awards galore: Barrington won numerous awards over the course of his career. He was named Cricket Writers' Club Young Cricketer of the Year in 1955, was one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year in 1960, and won the Walter Lawrence Trophy in 1966. His universal acclaim could be seen from the fact that he was also named Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year in 1962 and South African Cricket Annual Cricketer of the Year in 1965. He was also inducted in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2011.
(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)
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