Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa
Cricket South Africa (CSA) has received with sadness the news that former star cricketer and one of its well-known first-class match officials, Abdool Latief ‘Tiffy’ Barnes, has passed
away on Monday after a short illness, aged 80.
Barnes personified the deep cricket legacies to be found among formerly disenfranchised cricketers in the segregated black communities under apartheid, a legacy which regrettably remains largely
unacknowledged by the cricket mainstream in South Africa.
Nearly one hundred years ago Barnes’s grandfather, Abdool Latief ‘Tiffy’ Barnes, after whom he was named, captained Griqualand West in the 1927/28 Barnato inter-provincial tournament run by the
non-racial South African Coloured Cricket Board (SACCB). This Board had since 1899 been organising regular inter-provincial tournaments and specifically rejected discrimination whether by ‘Creed, Nationality or otherwise’.
Grandfather Abdool Latief was a prominent member of the community in Malay Camp, Kimberley and later became Treasurer of the SACCB. His son Jamaldien ‘Marlie’ Barnes followed in his footsteps, becoming one of the top opening batsmen in the country, with two double hundreds and several big centuries in inter-race and provincial cricket.
He was named one of the five South African cricketers of the year by the pioneering Non-European South African Cricket Almanack in 1953/54.
This was the deep-cricket context that Tiffie Barnes emerged from, being roped in as a teenager to play with the adults for his father’s Ottomans CC team in ‘Fietas’. Tiffie graduated as a teacher in 1961, and started his career at Germiston Coloured School, as it was called.
After making his debut for Transvaal in the Dadabhay non-racial tournaments which superseded the old inter-race competitions, he became a mainstay for 16 seasons through the 1960s and ’70 as a solid middle-order batsman and medium-pace and off-spin bowler.
Barnes played in all five centralized SACBOC inter-provincial tournaments from 1961-1970, taking 90 wickets and scoring 975 runs. He was a member of the 1974 Transvaal team, captained by Abdul
Bhamjee, which won the Dadabhay trophy to become inter-provincial champions. After the introduction of three-day first-class matches in the 1971/72 season Barnes scored four centuries, with a top score of 111 against Natal in 1975/76.
His average after the first five seasons was 35.40 and he took 73 wickets at 18,78. His best-ever performance was against Eastern Province in 1975/76 in Johannesburg when he scored a century (107) and took eleven wickets (6/50 and 5/47) in the same match.
He regularly played in the Champions versus The Rest and in the North/South games which used to be a highlight of the SACBOC calendar in those dark days of playing in racial ghettos.
Barnes was among a select group of SACBOC players who followed the likes of Basil D’Oliveira, Cecil Abrahams, Owen Williams and Dik Abed to play in the leagues in England. In 1972 he played as the professional for Colne in the Lancashire League, scoring over 500 runs and taking 33 wickets. He also played one match for Northamptonshire second XI.
In the brief flirtation with so-called ‘normal cricket’ in the mid-1970s, Tiffie was picked for the SA Invitation XI to play against the International Wanderers team, and he took 2/4 in his first match and scored a defiant 30 facing the likes of Dennis Lillee in the second.
These were brief moments to show what could have been, IF… .
Well-known cricket commentator, Aslam Khota, who watched him for many years described him as, “My ultimate cricket hero”.
After unity, Barnes’ knowledge and temperament were recognised and he was for many years a CSA first-class match official. He was a match referee during the 2005 Women’s World Cup in South Africa and a match referee in domestic matches, women’s internationals, and Under-19 internationals from 2005/06 until 2018/19.
A natural sportsman, who also played fly-half for Caledonian Roses and Transvaal, Tiffie married Fatima, sister of the well-known Rasdien cricketing brothers from ‘Fietas’ – ‘virtually the other half of Ottomans’, according to Aboo Mangera. The couple had seven children.
Reflecting on the life and times of Barnes, CSA Board Chairperson, Lawson Naidoo said:
“Tiffie exemplified perfection, talent and fortitude throughout his life and cricket career. He will fondly be remembered for defying the odds and steadfastly pursuing a unified cricket fraternity, where race was not a deciding factor.
“CSA and all of the cricket-loving community are indebted to Tiffie and his generation for laying the solid foundation upon which the pillars of transformation, access and equal opportunity are being built.
“As we mourn his untimely passing, we also celebrate a life well-lived and the rich legacy he left for future generations to embrace and embody. We thank the Barnes Family for lending Tiffie to be of invaluable service to the cricketing fraternity. It is atop such mighty shoulders that we will stand as we charter to change the fortunes of cricket in South Africa for the better.”
Hailing Barnes for his immense contribution to cricket, CSA President, Rihan Richards said: “Tiffie was a born leader who understood the power of servant-leadership. He was humble, hardworking, thoughtful, and accountable. He led with integrity and admitted fallibility. He was also a North Star to a generation of cricket players and administrators who broke so many glass ceilings.
“However, he never forgot where he came from. Born in the golden days of the Barnato Board, Tiffie died still involved as a respected cricket figure, who will be missed and remembered by generations to come.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and we want to assure them that we share in their loss.”