Cricket at the heart of it in Seaton
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:21 18 July 2017
Peter Anderson has been a policeman, in the anti-corruption unit in Hong Kong, and chief executive of Somerset County Cricket Club.
Here, the long-term member of Seaton Cricket Club tells Steve Jennings some of his life stories.
It is a beautiful Thursday morning at Court Lane, the home of Seaton Cricket Club, and Peter Anderson reflects on his morning’s work busily preparing another wicket for his club’s next round of matches. The playing surface and outfield look first class but he doesn’t feel inclined to be complimented: “So it should, I have been doing the grounds here for over 30 years now,” he says. “The guy who did it before me was called Simon Wright and in 1988 he told me he was giving it up. He said he would be back to do it again after about 10 years and I haven’t seen him since!”
Born in Wokingham in 1942, but very much a Devonian, the man affectionately known as Panda to his many friends and team-mates has a long-term association with the Seaton club for whom he has undertaken a variety of roles: “I have been a player, captain, groundsman, chairman, treasurer; I have done it all really,” he says proudly. “I have played for Seaton since 1959 having married a girl from Beer. In my first proper job I was working for a company up in Bath picking flints and they sent me down here and I worked out of Beer Quarry. I lodged with my future sister-in-law so that’s how I met my wife. And, as things got serious, I thought I better get a proper job as I didn’t want to be picking flints all my life, so I joined the police force.
“I was lucky enough to get into the Devon Constabulary and was stationed in Ilfracombe then Plymouth, and every year I came back to play here. I have never missed a season, playing in at least one game each year. And I even played a game last year aged 74!”
He has played plenty of cricket in his time with some great tales to tell. In 1973 Peter toured Antigua as part of his old friend and former Somerset chairman Len Creed’s touring party. There followed an encounter which would prove pivotal to the history of the county side – a chance to play against a young Viv Richards. “There were a few pros travelling with us, including Derek Underwood (Kent and England) and Allan Jones of Glamorgan,” he recalls. “They [Antigua] batted first and got a big score but I bowled to Viv and managed to get him out for 20-odd, and have never let him forget it!
“Then I opened the batting with Jones and Andy Roberts, the fast bowler, was bowling to me. He was peppering me with short deliveries and I had never seen pace like that before! I took one to the chest which knocked me over. The bruise was enormous.
“But I got a few runs that day, maybe 60-odd?”
Despite Viv only scoring modestly, Bath bookmaker Creed signed the young Richards for his local club, Lansdowne CC, for the ’73 season, and it was during this time that Somerset saw him play and offered him a contract for 1974 and the rest, as they say, is history as Richards became a Somerset legend.
In 1976, Panda was seconded to Hong Kong police to work in the anti-corruption unit. He worked some very high-profile cases; some that took him all around the world.
But there was still time for cricket. In fact, Panda represented Hong Kong as player and captain and was a key mover in raising the profile of the game. “We used to play a lot of representative cricket and I was lucky enough to play in two ICC World Cup qualifying competitions. We played the likes of Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea”, he says. “And whilst we were there, Australia and New Zealand came through and I managed to play against both of them.”
He also worked behind the scenes on a fledgling tournament that has progressed into one of the most famous in the world these days. “I was involved with the first Hong Kong Sixes tournament. I umpired and that was great; Ian Botham played, Clive Rice played, Richard Hadlee and Viv Richards. And today it’s a huge tournament.”
By 1988 Panda was looking ahead as his future in Hong Kong looked increasingly unsettled. It was getting closer to 1997 when the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the UK to China was due. A return to the UK seemed the best option to him. “So, after 13 years in Hong Kong, I thought I had better start looking.
“An advert appeared in The Cricketer magazine for the Somerset secretary job and I thought ‘why not?’. To my great surprise I was invited over for an interview. Vic Marks (Somerset legend and former England player) was on the interviewing panel, who I knew vaguely, and he seemed impressed so, after a second interview, I landed the job.”
In 1989 Somerset County Cricket Club were a club in some disarray. Following the so-called ‘glory years’ of the late ’70s and early ’80s the club’s decision in 1986 to effectively sack West Indian duo Joel Garner and Viv Richards divided the club. The fallout that followed was catastrophic; families were divided, local hero Ian Botham walked out in protest and joined Worcestershire, and the arguments raged for years. The ageing team were not performing and the club was financially broke.
But for the new chief executive, Peter Anderson, things were going to get a whole lot worse before they would get better, as he explains: “Vic Marks was my first captain, but in his first year Vic got hit on the knuckle at Gloucestershire and retired so I needed a new captain.”
Following the resignation of the chairman, “I spoke to the vice-chairman Richard Parsons – who is now the president - and he became the new chairman and was very supportive. That was the start for me really.”
And a meeting with the then club president Colin Atkinson highlighted exactly what was required. “I had only been there a few weeks when Colin called me to his house and said ‘Peter, I don’t know you, but you have been given the job of chief executive so please do one thing – just be in charge!’”
And for the man who would be known as Chief, this was right up his street. “When I got there everything was so downbeat as they just had this huge row. I knew the size of the task in hand immediately!”
And so started a 16-year tenure as chief executive and in his time Peter would help transform the fortunes of the cider county both on and off the field, including a first trophy win in 16 years in 2001 and being crowned T20 champions in only the third year of the tournament.