All-round greatness

2013-09-20 00:00

ONE of cricket’s rarest accomplishments is a player scoring a century and getting a hat-trick in the same match.

Only 11 men in the history of cricket have achieved that feat. One of them is Mike Procter. Only one man has done it twice. That man is Mike Procter (67).

His name is acknowledged in cricketing circles worldwide as one of the all-round greats to have graced the game. At the height of his powers, he was feared as an opponent who could change a game with bat or ball, most times both, and any captain was more than happy to have him alongside in the trenches.

His statistics bear testimony to a marvel on the cricket field, a player who, as a boy of six, had already made up his mind to play cricket for South Africa. Unfortunately, he was only afforded seven Tests before sporting isolation kicked in, but in those Tests, he stood tall as possibly the leading all-rounder in world cricket.

“I was fortunate to at least get a small taste of Test cricket, playing all my Tests against Australia,” said Procter. “In 1970, when we whitewashed Bill Lawry’s team 4-0, I think it fair to say we were world champions then as the Aussies had just beaten India in India. We didn’t just beat them … we won big, by the proverbial country mile.”

In those seven Tests, Procter took 41 wickets at an average of 15,02. He also contributed 226 runs with the bat at 25,11. “I batted seven or eight and by the time I came in, there was usually plenty on the board thanks to the likes of Graeme Pollock, Eddie Barlow and Barry Richards. I enjoyed having a swing and gave my wicket away. Runs from me were a bonus,” he said.

Procter was a prodigious schoolboy talent, knocking up five centuries and a double at prep school. He went to Hilton College where, after two matches at U15 level, he was asked to join the first team at net practice.

“I was given a new ball and told to bowl. I couldn’t believe it as I was in the company of some Natal Schools players as a brash youngster,” he said. “I must have done something right.”

Indeed he did as he played for three years in the first side, captaining the side in his matric year and making the SA Schools side that toured England in 1963. It was a side that included Barry Richards, Dassie Biggs and Hylton Ackerman, among others.

“I enjoyed rugby as well, also playing for Hilton firsts for three years at flyhalf. I also made the Natal Schools hockey side, coming on for a few minutes at trials and scoring a goal that suddenly saw Procter in the side at No. 13,” he said.

But cricket was his first love. In 1965, he was invited with Richards for trials at Gloucestershire, where they played as teenagers in the second team. Later that year, they played against Peter van der Merwe’s touring South Africans.

“This was my first first class game and Barry and I both got 60s against a full strength SA team,” said Procter. “It was a three-day game, which was serious pre-Test cricket, but unfortunately it rained for two days and there was no result.”

This was the beginning of a long relationship Procter had with Gloucestershire as he played there for 14 seasons. They never won the championship — coming close in 1977 when they lost their last match to Hampshire — but they won the Gillette Cup (60 overs) in 1973 and the Benson and Hedges 50-over Cup in 1977. He led the side from 1977 to 1982 and such was his standing and influence at the club, it became known as “Proctershire”.

“County cricket was strong back then, with plenty international players involved,” said Procter. “It was great to play serious cricket against some of the world’s best, but it wasn’t the same as proper Test cricket.”

After smashing Lawry’s Australians in 1970, Procter was selected for the Rest of the World side, with fellow South Africans Barlow, Richards and Graeme Pollock, to play five Tests against England, led by Ray Illingworth.

“Both sides were strong. We had Barlow and Richards opening, then came Rohan Kanhai, Graeme Pollock, Clive Lloyd, Garry Sobers and myself. Lance Gibbs was also in the mix as were ’keepers Farouk Engineer and Deryck Murray,” said Procter. “England were not too shabby either, with Alan Knott, Geoff Boycott, John Snow, Derek Underwood and John Edrich in their ranks. Ironically, two South Africans — Tony Greig and Basil D’Oliveira — were in the England side.”

The Rest of the World side won the series 3-1 and Procter then switched his cricket between Gloucestershire and South Africa, also playing Kerry Packer World Series Cricket from 1977 to 1979.

He played one season for Western Province while he coached cricket at Stellenbosch University; seven seasons for Rhodesia; and rounded off his playing days for Natal, scoring a century in his final game against the rebel West Indian side in 1983.

“I was South Africa’s first coach post isolation, taking the team to the 1992 World Cup in Australia plus victory at Lord’s against England, when Kepler Wessels got a hundred,” said Procter. “I was also in charge when we beat Australia by five runs in Sydney and rate that as the most exciting two hours of cricket I have experienced, bowling them out before lunch.”

Director of cricket at Free State, Natal and Northampton at various times, plus some commentating and being an ICC match referee are all on Procter’s CV. He was also the SA convenor of selectors for 18 months before being dismissed, soon after coach Mickey Arthur was sacked.

“I was commentating with Lawry when we tied with the Aussies in that World Cup semi-final at Headingley, when Allan Donald was run out,” he said. “I was stunned and was at a loss for words. I went into the SA dressing room for a few minutes afterwards and it was devastating. I even walked back to the hotel that night, stunned by what had happened.”

As a match referee from 2001 to 2009, Procter had his fair share of troublesome issues to deal with. Top of the list was Australian umpire Darrell Hair calling off a Test between England and Pakistan at The Oval due to what he considered “ball tampering” and dealing with the showdown between India’s Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds that became an ugly racial slurring incident.

Procter is an honorary member of the MCC and CCI (Cricket Club of India) and he is one of only three players — Don Bradman and C.B. Fry the others — to make six successive centuries in six innings, accomplishing the feat in 1970/71 playing for Rhodesia.

“I enjoyed all sport, but focused on cricket. I achieved my dream and always gave of my best on the field, regardless of the quality of opposition or size of the challenge. Cricket has given me a rich life and friends I will always cherish,” said Procter.

Regardless of his limited Test career, Michael John Procter will always be one of cricket’s greatest all-rounders.

Procter’s Stats

Took four hat-tricks in his career.

Took 1 417 wickets in his First Class career at 19,53.

Took 10 wickets in a match 15 times and five in a match 70 times.

Bowled 65 404 balls plus 12 347 in 271 one-day matches.

Took 344 one-day wickets at 18,76.

Scored 21 936 First Class runs at 36,01 with 48 hundreds and a highest score of 254.

Procter’s Lifestyle

Coaches with Rodney Malamba at Ottawa Primary School.

Plays golf off a ‘double figure’ handicap.

Follows horseracing closely.

Watches all sports.

Does a little cooking every so often.

Enjoys light reading — Wilbur Smith, Bryce Courtenay, James Patterson.

Enjoys rock and roll music — Rolling Stones, Elvis, Johnny Cash

A good steak is a favourite meal.

Prefers wine to beer, nothing like good red.

Goes to gym daily.

Has two heroes in life — Nelson Mandela and Garry Sobers (“In my mind, the greatest player to ever play the game.”)

Favourite cricket ground — Lords

Quickest bowler faced — Michael Holding

Best spinner — Bishen Bedi.

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