Mike Procter: One of South Africa’s greatest cricketersSat, 17 Feb 2024 19:56:23 GMT

Mike Procter was an outstanding cricket all-rounder who became South Africa’s first coach in the post-isolation era and had a controversial stint as an International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee.South Africa won six of the seven Tests in which he played, all against Australia, before South Africa’s sporting isolation in 1970 because of apartheid.The other match was drawn with South Africa on the verge of victory before rain ended play. In those seven matches Procter took 41 wickets at an average of 15.02.Although renowned primarily as a fearsome fast bowler, he equalled a world batting record when he hit six first-class centuries in successive innings.Ali Bacher, who captained South Africa to a 4-0 series win against Australia in 1969/70, said he regarded Procter as one of South Africa’s all-time three greatest players, alongside Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock.Michael John Procter was born in Indian Ocean port city Durban on September 15, 1946.He played first-class cricket for 16 years, including 14 seasons with English county Gloucestershire, five as captain, where he achieved legendary status and led them to two limited overs titles.Some said the county team should be renamed “Proctershire”, so great was his influence on it.In South Africa, he played most of his cricket for Natal, the province of his birth, but had stints with Western Province and the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).His six successive centuries were made for Rhodesia in 1970/71, culminating in a career-best 254 against Western Province.He scored 21,082 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 36.92, hitting 47 centuries, and took 1,357 wickets at 19.07.Procter was South Africa’s coach when they returned to international cricket.- Turbulent tenure -The team reached the semi-finals of the 1992 Cricket World Cup and had Test series wins against India and Sri Lanka and shared series with Australia (twice) and England.Procter was an international match referee between 2002 and 2008. It was a turbulent tenure during which he was twice involved in Tests that were called off.New Zealand’s tour of Pakistan in 2002 was abandoned when a bomb blast opposite the team’s hotel in Karachi shattered windows and killed 12 people. The Test was called off and the New Zealanders flew home.Four years later, umpire Darrell Hair accused the Pakistan team of altering the condition of the ball in a match against England at the Oval. The Pakistanis refused to go back on the field after an ensuing tea interval.When the players did not reappear, Hair and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove declared that Pakistan had forfeited the match –- a decision made without consulting Procter, who was negotiating with the Pakistanis to go back.The incident led to the ICC changing their rules so that a match could not be called off without the consent of a match referee.Procter was involved in a bigger controversy in 2008 when he found Indian player Harbhajan Singh guilty of racially abusing Australia’s Andrew Symonds.The decision was made after a lengthy hearing which Procter said was based on the evidence available.It was overturned after an appeal chaired by a judge, during which the Indians introduced what Procter said was evidence they had not presented at the initial hearing.It was Procter’s last series as a match referee and he had a stint as convener of the South African selectors from 2008 until 2011 before stepping away from the game.