Friday, 7 January 2011

Eddie Barlow - a 35th anniversary tribute - Part Two

Peakfan - Eddie was a big name in world cricket circles from around 1960 and county sides were recruiting overseas stars from the mid-1960s. I once read that he’d never been asked to join the county circuit before Derbyshire’s approach?

Cally Barlow - Yes that's right.

P - I still find it extraordinary that one of the top all-rounders in the world has to wait until he’s 36 for a county deal. How did that come about?

Dave Griffin - During the winter of 1975, George Hughes, Derbyshire’s chairman, who was a road haulage businessman from Loughborough, made enquiries about bringing a top world name to the club. Graeme Pollock was mentioned as well as Eddie and Derbyshire had to break the bank to sign him. At the time Garfield Sobers was earning £5,000 per season at Nottinghamshire and Barlow's £10,000 per season (around £85,000 today – P) sent serious shock waves through the cricket world. Hughes paid Barlow's salary, on the proviso that Derbyshire paid his tax. When the tax man came calling in the early 1980s, it became clear that Derbyshire hadn’t made good their promise on the tax!!

Bob Taylor – As far as the players were concerned, Eddie's reputation spoke for itself and there was no resentment about his salary. There was the odd comment around the circuit, but it wasn't an issue.

C - Eddie had so many things going on in South Africa. Cricketers had to earn a living in those days, as well as play cricket.

P - What were his first impressions of county cricket?

C - Mostly unprintable! He was always a player's man, which did not sit well with most administrators, but they were probably so desperate to get Derbyshire out of the doldrums that they would have agreed to anything he said and did. And he did a lot!. He had enjoyed his time in the Lancashire Leagues, where it was real blood and guts, but he found county cricket had very little direction. Some players were content to just play out the season, possibly due to no one really giving a damn, having just written them off.

Bob Taylor – Eddie took over from me as skipper part way through that first season. I wanted to concentrate on my wicket-keeping and believed that captaincy is something you have a natural aptitude for. Eddie had that, and as the senior player with international experience was the obvious choice to take over.

I remember he called a meeting soon afterwards and talked about professionalism, using me as an example. I used to have an hour's drive to the ground from my home. Eddie told the rest of the team that even when it was raining I did this with the expectation of playing cricket. He said too many cricketers were happy to sit in the pavilion in a negative state of mind when it rained. Eddie wanted us to stay positive, expecting to be on the pitch every day.

P - In that first season, Eddie’s batting form was the subject of a few moans from supporters. Did that bother him, or was he confident that it would come good in the end?

C - Eddie was always confident and I think he saw his job first and foremost as getting Derbyshire right, but he was at his best when he was getting either runs or wickets.

P - When he returned to form, it was with a career-best 217 against Surrey at Ilkeston. That was typically Eddie?

Dave Griffin – I saw the double hundred. There was real consternation among the members during the morning session as Eddie scratched around at the crease. The same members were giving him a standing ovation several hours later. One of the best innings I’ve ever seen.

C - Eddie never did anything by halves, but on the other hand he never revisited failure. He was always about tomorrow, never yesterday.

Gerald Mortimer - Eddie was an eternal optimist in his approach and in 1976 he lifted a bedraggled Derbyshire side, giving hope and belief to both players and supporters.

P - At the end of the first season, as referred to by John Wright in his autobiography, there were a couple of high profile departures from the county in ex-England players Phil Sharpe and Alan Ward. Wright suggests they did not subscribe to Eddie’s theories on physical fitness?

C - At that time it was most unusual for county players to even think about fitness of any kind. If you could bend your right arm, smoke coffin nails and party all night you were generally OK. It was a long way from Eddie's ethos for getting a team to peak performance and if players were not willing to go with what he wanted they got short shrift. Nor did he tolerate divisiveness in the dressing room.

Tony Borrington – Wardy had become very injury prone by 1976 and Bunter just could not see him lasting a season, when he was operating on a low budget with a small staff. He went to Leicestershire but was still plagued by injuries and it turned out to be a shrewd decision. However, I remember Wardy knocked Eddie's middle stump out at Grace Road (I was at the other end) and Bunter could see the irony in it!

Sharpey was a lovely man – greatly liked and respected. However, although a great slip catcher he was not the fittest at that stage of his career and the new fitness regime was always going to be a challenge. I don't recall it being controversial – I just think at that stage he was ready to move on to other things in his life.

P - So what did Eddie say to the players at the end of that first season? Looking at the difference between 1976 and 1977 it appears to have worked!

Tony Borrington – His training methods were innovative – specific training regimes for each player to be tested on the first day of pre-season. Also we did sprints fully kitted out in net sessions. He would call out 'run two' three times running so there was no complacency in the approach. He was very much ahead of his time.

Bob Taylor – He had us running around the County Ground and Queens Park even when it was raining. There was no room for complacency! You could always be fitter and Eddie used to stress the importance of concentration. People who maintain focus perform better and that's what separates international from county players. He helped us all, without question.

C - He was delighted for the players that fortunes improved and always quick to put his hand in his pocket when the occasion arose. He probably overstepped the mark when he took them all to a strip club. The wives found out and were furious...

P - Eddie then signed up for World Series Cricket and Kerry Packer. Presumably he did that without Derbyshire’s knowledge? Was there any awkwardness?

Dave Griffin - My recollection of him signing for WSC was that it was great for him and Derbyshire. He was outlawed from Test cricket because of South Africa’s isolation, so most Derbyshire people saw it as a rare opportunity for him to play top class cricket.

Bob Taylor – We were playing Somerset at Chesterfield in 1976 and batting on a hot day. In the dressing room Eddie suddenly exclaimed “There's going to be a revolution in cricket.” That's all he said but it was the first we heard about what became World Series Cricket.

To be continued...

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