Roy Swetman made his name as a wicket-keeper batsman with Surrey and earned eleven Test caps whilst at The Oval but after he lost his England spot to Jim Parks, and then slipped behind John Murray in the pecking order, he gave up First-Class cricket for almost five years, returning to join Nottinghamshire in 1966.
Born in Westminster on 25 October 1933, Roy Swetman learned his cricket in the Surrey leagues and joined the county club in 1954 – he made his county debut whilst still on National Service – as understudy to Arthur McIntyre.
Whilst still playing mainly Second XI cricket, he was selected for an MCC A tour of Pakistan in 1955-56, before that country was a test-playing nation. The tour nearly ended early after a prank by a group of England cricketers, including Swetman, resulted in home umpire Idris Begh getting drenched with water. Though Begh himself took it all in good spirits, the Pakistan authorities reacted rather differently, not least because the standard of umpiring had been the cause of some complaint on the tour, and diplomacy was needed to calm things sufficiently for the tour to be completed.
It seems an unlikely incident for the likeable and undemonstrative Swetman to have been involved with and he would certainly much rather be remembered as the man who kept to Jim Laker when he took all 10 in an innings against Australia in 1956. And before the stats-minded rise up in wrath – Laker achieved that remarkable feat twice in the summer of ’56, the first time bowling for Surrey at The Oval when he took 10-83, a performance he always rated technically better than the more famous feat in the Old Trafford test, and Swetman caught the tenth victim, Aussie tail-ender Jack Wilson.
Whether inspired by Laker or not, we cannot say but at one stage of his playing career, Roy Swetman came out from behind the stumps and tried his arm at off-break bowling; he is credited with just one First-Class wicket so the experiment was not long-lived.
Remarkably, he gained his full England cap - touring Australia with the MCC in 1958-59 - even before he had his Surrey County Cap. Swetman deputised for the injured Godfrey Evans in the third Test of that series, making a creditable 41, and again in the fifth and final Test.
In his truncated Test career - which he and many others felt was harsh given his undoubted skills - he had the distinction of being the only keeper to stump Garry Sobers in a Test Match; it possibly didn't feel like that significant achievement at the time as his erstwhile Notts team-mate had 145 to his name!
Roy Swetman came to Trent Bridge for two seasons, playing in 56 First-Class matches in which he took 107 catches and three stumpings; his batting produced 1,475 runs at 19.93, with six Fifties and one century, 115 against Essex. There were few List-A games in that era and Swetman played in just three for Notts, taking three catches and making a best score of 48.
At the end of the 1967 season, he took another sabbatical from the game, to run a pub, then returned to join Gloucestershire (making him one of those rare cricketers to be capped by three different counties), for whom he played 45 games over three seasons before retiring fully from county cricket.
He did, however, continue to play for his first club - Addiscombe CC in Surrey - and was a welcome and popular guest at the former players' days at each of his counties.
Roy Swetman died of pneumonia on 21 July, 2023, aged 89; he was the subject of fulsome tributes from Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Addiscombe CC - as befits such a long and versatile life.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 442