Former New Zealand batsman Trevor Barber dies at 90
Trevor Barber, the New Zealand batsman who played one Test match at the Basin Reserve in 1956, has died in Christchurch at the age of 90. Barber had been New Zealand's oldest living Test cricketer; the oldest now is his former Wellington team-mate and the man who captained Barber in his only Test match, the 87-year-old John Reid.
A dashing batsman who liked playing his shots, Barber was called up for the third Test against West Indies in 1956 when Bert Sutcliffe was unavailable due to ill-health. West Indies batted first and Barber had the distinction of catching out Garry Sobers while fielding at gully, in what was the first wicket of the match.
"It was going past and I threw the hands up - I was a bit of a show-off," Barber told ESPNcricinfo earlier this year. "John Reid was bowling and he said 'that's a nice way to start your career'."
However, with the bat he was unable to have a great enough impact to retain his place in the side, and was out to Sonny Ramadhin in both innings, for 12 and 5. Barber's attacking approach to batting would perhaps have suited the modern game, but against West Indies it brought his downfall in both innings of his Test match.
"Today I might have got away with it," Barber said. "But I went for sweeps to the leg side off short balls in both innings. My understanding as a captain and also as a batsman was that the first thing you'd do when you go out there is dominate the bowlers. Don't let the bowlers get on top of you. Get behind the line of flight, bat straight, and when they bowl one off the wicket, give it a go. I did that and I got bloody caught at square leg."
Barber was 30 at the time of his Test appearance, and was captain of Wellington in the Plunket Shield competition. His first-class career began in 1945-46 and finished in 1959-60, but it brought him only one century, and 2002 runs at an average of 23.01. Contemporary reports described him as "a swashbuckler" who, especially early in his career, was more concerned with the joy of batsmanship than playing long innings.
"A cricketer more of the pre-war era always on the lookout to thrash the bowling with off-drives, lofted shots to the boundary, pulls to square-leg and square-cuts which often caused fieldsmen to wince when trying to stop them, Barber was always scoring runs attractively, but also losing his wicket rather easily," a Dominion Post article said in 1957.
Barber captained Wellington to the Plunket Shield title in 1956-57 and also led Central Districts later in his career. A part-time wicketkeeper who enjoyed assessing a batsman's weaknesses, Barber said captaincy was one of the parts of the game he found most satisfying.
"It's lovely to have some control of the game, and also the players," he said. "I used to have quite a number of discussions with the players before we'd go out and play. I'd say this player has a weakness here, I want you Bob Blair to bowl on a length just outside his leg stumps, and I reckon we can get him.
"I always remember on one occasion down at Dunedin, I said to John Reid, who was bowling to Sutcliffe, I said 'I think he's got a weakness on the leg glance, I'm going to field at leg gully and you bowl down leg'. We got him for a duck! It's those little things."
Born in Otaki in 1925, Barber was raised on a dairy farm and learnt the game from his father.
"I remember in the backyard he used to put out a kerosene tin," he said. "I used to have a bat and he'd throw the ball to me. He'd say 'go on, hit it over my head'. He made me very keen."
After his playing career ended, Barber worked with the Shell oil company and was responsible for its sponsorship of sporting events including the New Zealand Golf Open and the domestic cricket competition, which became known as the Shell Trophy. It continued a lifelong love of cricket.
"I still follow it with interest," Barber said earlier this year. "It's just amazing how much the game has changed from my time. We only played Test cricket and Plunket Shield. Now there's T20 and 50-over, it's bash and slash. It might have suited me. When you see blokes like McCullum and Williamson doing so well, it's marvellous."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale