‘Shrewd’ leader: Former South African cricket captain Peter van der Merwe dies aged 75

2013-01-24 00:00

FORMER South African cricket captain Peter van der Merwe died in Port Elizabeth yesterday after battling poor health. He was 75.

A slow left-arm spinner, Van der Merwe became a solid middle-order batsman and was recognised as a player with outstanding leadership qualities, described by some as a “shrewd” captain, where his dynamic, innovative and always attacking skills made South Africa a respected force on the cricket field.

He played 15 Tests for South Africa, captaining them in eight. He made 533 runs at an average of 25,38, with three fifties and a highest score of 76 against Australia in Johannesburg in 1966.

He made his debut for South Africa in 1963/64, vice-captain to Trevor Goddard on the tour to Australia and New Zealand.

The Test series against both these countries was drawn, but it was the series against England (in England) in 1965 that cemented his place in South African cricket history.

That series in England saw the South Africans win their first ever series against England, the magic moment coming at Trent Bridge where Graeme Pollock’s 125 and 59, backed by brother Peter’s 10-wicket haul, saw South Africa home.

Back on home soil, Van der Merwe led South Africa to their first ever series win against Australia in 1966/67 and, after packing his bat away for the last time, remained actively involved in cricket administration.

Post-isolation, he was the first national convenor of selectors, in the seat for the historic tour to India in 1991 and the World Cup in 1992. He was also an ICC match referee and first president of the Eastern Province Cricket Board (EPCB) after isolation.

Cricket South Africa’s acting CEO, Jacques Faul, said: “Peter made an immense contribution to South African cricket on and off the field. He played a huge role in changing South African cricket from being defensive to adopting an attacking style. He valued the standards and principles of the game and was respected by players from both sides.”

The president of the EPCB, Graeme Sauls, said he was saddened by van der Merwe’s death.

“He represented and captained Eastern Province in his playing days and was a massive part of cricket in this part of South Africa,” Sauls said.

Van der Merwe is survived by his second wife Rhoda and three sons from his first wife, Margaret, who died in 2002.

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