From quaint beginnings on the lush fields of Hilton College, a whirlwind introduction into the Test arena against Australia announced Mike Procter as a serious contender for the tag of greatest all-rounder of all time. Blessed with pace, swing, and a free-spirited nature at the crease, ‘Proccie” was primed for the biggest stages. But, like the rest of a fantastic generation of South Africa sportsmen, his test career was cut shot by politics.
The Cricket Legend
Michael John Procter, 71, is a former South African cricketer.
A fast bowler and hard-hitting batsman, he proved himself a colossal competitor in English first-class cricket. He was denied the international stage by South Africa’s banishment from world cricket in the 1970s and 1980s.
He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1970 and South African cricketer of the year in 1967.
Following his retirement from the playing the game, Procter was appointed as a match referee by ICC for officiating cricket matches. However, his tenure has been marked by controversies.
Educated at Hilton College, he played for Natal in the Nuffield week and for South African schools in 1963 and 1964. His brother, AW Procter, cousin AC Procter and father WC Procter all played first-class cricket.
Procter married Maryna Godwin.
The ban on South Africa restricted his Test career to a mere seven appearances, all of them against Australia, between 1967 and 1970.
He took 41 test wickets at an average of 15.02, suggesting that he might have achieved in the coming years had South Africa not enacted the Apartheid policy, which had their international sporting teams banned.
Along with Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock, Procter was responsible in his side inflicting two successive series defeats on Australia by margins of 3–1 and 4–0.
Procter is the only man to make over 500 runs and take 50 wickets twice in a domestic South African season, in 1971–72 and 1972–73, when he took a then record 59 wickets in eight Currie Cup games.
In 1970 he entered the record books, to join the exalted company of Sir Donald Bradman and CB Fry, in scoring six successive first-class centuries for Rhodesia. He played and captained South Africa in 1 unofficial “Test”.
He played county cricket for 13 years as an overseas player for Gloucestershire and led them to great success. Fans even jokingly renamed the team Proctershire. His whirlwind, chest-on pace bowling lifted Gloucestershire from the unfashionable depths of the county championship to second in 1969 as he blasted his way to over 100 wickets.
Four centuries followed in 1971, the last lifting them from 28 for three to a target of 201 in just over two hours against Yorkshire.
Procter scored 109 not out in Gloucestershire’s 135/3 in the 1974 John Player League – the lowest team total in List A cricket to include a century.
He destroyed Worcestershire single-handedly in 1977, scoring a century before lunch and taking 13 wickets for just 73 runs.
He picked up another century before lunch in 1979, against Leicestershire, winning the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the season’s fastest century, and then ripped through their batsmen with a hat-trick for good measure.
Procter defied insurmountable odds in the very next game, against Yorkshire, by taking another hat-trick, all trapped leg-before.
The potency of his muscular inswinging fast bowling can be seen by the fact that his feat of taking two hat-tricks of LBWs is unique in the first class game. He captained them with distinction from 1977 to 1981 and was hugely popular with teammates and supporters alike.
He was the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year in 1970 and 1977 and won the Cricket Society Wetherall Award for the Leading All-Rounder in English First-Class Cricket in 1978.
As captain he led Gloucestershire to the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1977, as director of coaching he guided Northamptonshire CCC to their triumph in the 1989–90 NatWest Trophy final and in 1994 he was the coach as Kepler Wessels’ South African team stunned England at Lord’s by 356 runs.
As a player Procter had beaten England there in 1970 with the Rest of the World XI and won the Gillette Cup for Gloucestershire in 1973, scoring 94 and taking two wickets against Sussex.
“I never really bothered much about averages. I was more concerned with how the team did, so to never lose a big game at Lord’s was a highlight, plus there was winning all the Super Tests in Australia during World Series Cricket and all those Currie Cups with Natal,” Procter told Cricinfo
“And, of course, winning all those Test matches in South Africa against the Aussies.”
Procter started his cricket foundation in 2011 which is aimed at developing the game and equipping children with skill and knowledge in privileged areas.
Following a few months after starting his foundation, friend Rodney Malumba joined to work with him as the demand of participation from more children grew.
Initially starting with approximately 50 children, the foundation has had to select boys and girls after the number had grown to 1 000 children.
Having started running his foundation at Ottawa Primary School in KZN, the foundation is still running strong and enjoying success at the same venue where Procter and Malumba run PT work.
When the Advertiser spoke to the former Protea, he said: “I hope one day we will get a Protea out of the foundation.
“I think it’s also important for teachers in schools to be taught how to organise these kinds of events, which would help with getting more children involved in the game.”
• Information for this piece was drawn from Wikipedia.