Hero turns disrespectful fool

Two of South Africa’s greatest cricketers, men responsible for attracting thousands of people to watch and play cricket, are treading very different paths at the moment. Both brilliant all rounders, one has moved on from a lifetime of being ‘one of the boys’ to become a leader and a figure of international respect, while the other has moved from a lifetime of natural leadership to become a disrespectful fool.

Michael John Procter, 56 and former ‘wild thing’, is a member of the ICC’s elite match referees panel while Clive Edward Butler Rice, South Africa’s first post isolation captain, has been sacked as director of cricket by his English county and is now sounding like a bitter, twisted, disrespectful and confused has-been.

Procter was recently sent to Tangiers on behalf of the ICC to inspect the city’s new stadium for its suitability to host international cricket. It was a hard assignment and laden with responsibility but Proccie was more than up to the challenge. (Heaven knows what will happen if his ‘green light’ turns red when SA, Pakistan and Sri Lanka play a triangular there in August!)

Rice, meanwhile, was being summarily dismissed by Nottinghamshire after two inglorious years in which he led them to seventh (out of nine) in the second division last year and sixth this year. The team was equally unsuccessful in one-day cricket.

Instead of keeping his tail between his legs and his head down for a while, Rice gave an interview to the Sunday Times in which he insulted the UCB, South African cricket in general, the transformation process and, most ironically, the memory of Hansie Cronje.

He says that transformation is the same as “settling for mediocrity” and that if Hansie had been in charge of the national team this summer then the series against Australia would have been “totally different.” (Forgetting, of course, that SA lost to Australia home and away four years ago, as well.)

But worst of all he says that Hansie was “framed” in the match-fixing scandal but refuses to say how why and by whom. If he has any information that could help clear the former captain’s name then surely it is his duty to be forthcoming with it – that is the least Hansie’s legacy deserves. If not, Mr Rice, then shut the f*** up like the rest of us.

Asked whether he would coach the South African team, Rice replies: “Not for a second as things are now.” Well, let us all be grateful for that. That’s the only sensible thing he appears to have done or said in recent weeks. Besides, his coaching record sucks, despite acquiring the services of Kevin Pietersen from Natal last season and Lance Klusener and Nicky Boje this season.


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