The Cricketing Career of the Colourful Peter Douglas SwartMartin Chandler |
Author: Battersby, David
Rating: 4 stars
Peter Swart’s name won’t mean very much to anyone under 50, but to those of that age and older who followed cricket in the late 1970s, and more particularly were regular viewers of BBC2’s coverage of the old John Player League, it will be one that brings memories flooding back.
For two summers in the late 1970s Swart was one of Glamorgan’s overseas players. A South African all-rounder, whilst Swart might never have touched greatness, he would surely have played some international cricket had it not been for his country’s self-inflicted exile from international sport.
A few (but not many) years younger than this reviewer David Battersby was in his mid teens when Swart strutted his stuff for Battersby’s beloved Glamorgan in 1978 and 1979, and his performances seem to have been something of a beacon of light in what were two of the more difficult summers that the county have had to endure. Part of the appeal of this excellent monograph is that Battersby has so many memories of his subject and his admiration for his subject comes shining through in his writing. There is a thin line between affection and hagiography, and the latter is as undesirable as the former is illuminating. Battersby is very much on the right side of that line.
Sadly Swart died in 2000 at the early age of 53. Given that during his playing days Swart was largely sustained by alcohol and tobacco that is perhaps not surprising, and despite those danger signs he appears to have been highly regarded by all he came into contact with bar, it would seem, his fellow Glamorgan based South African, Rodney Ontong.
Battersby’s monograph contains a detailed account of all of Swart’s cricket. The two chapters on his summers in Wales are, understandably, the longest and most detailed but Battersby also takes full account of Swart’s winters in South Africa, and of his English summers as a Lancashire League professional with Accrington, Haslingden and East Lancashire.
A description of Swart’s cricket alone may not a biography make, although it certainly justifies the writing of a monograph. But then there is more. Battersby has gone to some who knew Swart the man. There are contributions from Accrington teammate Geoff Hayhurst, South African umpire Ronnie Pilowski as well as Rob Cowan, Swart’s best friend. All add much to the overall picture as do two other contributions from teammates at Glamorgan, a lengthy one from Alan Wilkins and a shorter and rather more pithy contribution from Robin Hobbs, his captain in 1979.
Battersby has produced The Cricketing Career of the Colourful Peter Douglas Swart in a limited edition of 75 copies. Well produced and containing some excellent illustrations I suspect that the author might have underestimated the popularity of this one so, if you are of a certain age, have happy memories of the old John Player League and can spare a modest £7.50 my advice is to email firstname.lastname@example.org straight away.