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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 February, 2005, 16:35 GMT
Modern stars impress Barlow
By Ken Borland
South African sports journalist

Eddie Barlow is one of the men credited with turning South Africa into arguably the best team in the world 35 years ago.

Eddie Barlow
Test cricket
30 matches, 2,516 runs, average 45.74, highest score 201, 40 wickets, 35 catches
First-class cricket
18,212 runs, average 39.16, highest score 217, 571 wickets, best figures 7-24, 335 catches
Limited overs cricket
2,983 runs, average 31.73, highest score 186, 161 wickets, 43 catches

Along with the Pollock brothers, Graeme and Peter, Barry Richards and Mike Procter, he was a member of the side which thrashed Australia 4-0 under the captaincy of Ali Bacher.

But such has been his interest in English cricket he was once accused of wearing Union Jack underpants by former South Africa Cricket Association - now the United Cricket Board - secretary Charles Fortune.

Barlow is now 64 and confined to a wheelchair after suffering a stroke in 2000.

Despite that, a heart full of passion for the game still beats strongly and in the recent Tests between South Africa and England he has seen plenty of positives on both sides.

"Maybe it's a sign of old age - like when policemen's faces all look young to you - but I couldn't care who wins any more, I just want to see good cricket.

"And I was happy because there was some really good cricket in the series," said Barlow, who had three seasons in the English county game with Derbyshire in the mid-1970s.

"Their performances have taken a real jump out on the field, which is where the captain has to work his stuff.

"I like to look at captains and that is where Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan can take a lot of credit because it is due to them that England can count themselves as being back where they should be among the top cricketing nations.

"I've been really struck by Michael Vaughan, he's shown his cricketing character.

"He's led from the front and thought things out, while taking flak all the way through. But he's quite prepared to accept responsibility."

Other England players to impress the Barlow were Andrew Flintoff and Marcus Trescothick.

"The new influx of all-rounders in international cricket is very exciting and Freddie Flintoff has been the most wonderful addition.

"The all-rounder in a Test side is a crucial position and he's the kind of player who changes the approach to the game.

"I've always been a great supporter of Trescothick. He's a good player and he has all the qualities you need of an opening batsman."

Current South Africa skipper Graeme Smith
He has turned out absolute trumps
Barlow on Graeme Smith

The veteran of 30 pre-isolation Tests also has plenty of praise for South Africa's captain Graeme Smith.

Barlow first saw Smith in action during South Africa's 2003 tour to England after he was handed the captaincy following the decision to sack Shaun Pollock.

"South Africa treats their captains very strangely and Graeme pitched up in England and was thrust immediately into the coalface.

"He didn't know what had happened, but [they way he played] it was like seeing him being born in England. He's done magnificently and has turned out absolute trumps.

"He's scored runs at the same time, so he's leading from the front. That has earned him the support and belief of his players.

"That sort of thing doesn't just happen; a captain either has respect or he hasn't, that's what leadership is.

"I think it's very exciting and Smith's captaincy has been a thrilling aspect of the series. It augurs very well for South Africa's future," he said.

Barlow has been touring his homeland with wife Cally while he takes a break from coaching in Wales, where her assistance has been crucial in keeping him involved in the game.

England's Professional Cricketers' Association have also been a great help since he suffered the stroke, and Barlow hopes South African administrators can improve the relationship with their players' body so they can work together more closely in the future.

"I actually started the first players' association in South Africa and they can be a tremendous vehicle for the good of the game," he said.

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