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Barry Sinclair: 1936 – 2022

Barry Sinclair
by Almanack Archive 7 minute read

Barry Sinclair died on July 10, 2022, aged 85. He played 21 Test matches, and was remembered in the 2023 Wisden Almanack.

SINCLAIR, BARRY WHITLEY, MNZM, who died on July 10, aged 85, was a surprise choice as New Zealand captain in 1965/66, as he had not yet led his province, Wellington. Sinclair stepped in for the second Test against Mike Smith’s England tourists when Murray Chapple, the original choice to replace the long-serving John Reid, went down injured. “He had cricket nous,” said Reid approvingly. He had wanted to take Sinclair with his team to South Africa in 1961/62, “but he just made no runs that season – we ended up picking batsmen who weren’t as good, but you have to be fair”.

A short, stocky right-hander, Sinclair did make his Test debut against England in 1962/63, and the following season made 138 against South Africa at Auckland. “His cover-driving would have delighted either Euclid or Pythagoras – the strokes from his bat almost printed straight lines on the green grass,” wrote RS Whitington. He added: “His hooking of Peter Pollock was brave and well executed. He reached his maiden Test century in four hours with precision, determination and defiance of a high calibre.”

Sinclair was part of Reid’s intrepid band who played 13 Test matches between January and July 1965, adding a second century as New Zealand made the running against Pakistan in a draw at Lahore. He particularly enjoyed himself in England: “I just loved playing there. I had always followed English cricket as a kid, and had 40-odd copies of Wisden.” He topped the overall averages, made a century against Cambridge University at Fenner’s, and scored 72 in the Lord’s Test. Wisden repaid his devotion: “For daintiness and sheer grace, the diminutive, fair-haired Sinclair had no superior, and he too excelled at cover.”

Elevation to the captaincy seemed to confirm the purple prose – but Sinclair would play only twice more for New Zealand. In the first Test against India in 1967/68, he made nought and eight in defeat, then withdrew from the next match; Graham Dowling took over and scored 239. Sinclair had said before the season: “I feel completely saturated with cricket. Perhaps I have tried to do too much, and I feel I must have a break.” He won one more cap, against West Indies in 1968/69, and the following season played in the first representative game against an Australian B-Team. “During the match, I thought ‘I don’t want to do it anymore’, and announced my retirement.”

He did have one more domestic season, narrowly missing another Plunket Shield title as Central Districts pipped Wellington by three points. Returning to business, Sinclair worked mainly for companies that exported materials to developing countries in the Pacific. His two sons played club cricket: Mark Sinclair remembered “hundreds of throwdowns, trying to keep our head over the ball and get the leading shoulder in line with the flight”. In 2015, Sinclair became only the sixth cricketer to be voted a Wellington Sports Legend.

Barry Sinclair led New Zealand in three Test matches.

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