Procter was a natural athlete. He was fly half in the Rugby XV © Getty Images
Procter was a natural athlete. He was fly half in the Rugby XV © Getty Images

Born, September 15, 1946, in Natal, Michael John Procter, is a former South African cricketer, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest all-rounders of all-time. On his 71st birthday, Suvajit Mustafi looks at 19 interesting facts about the gifted talent who became a victim of the apartheid era.

1.  Cricketing family: Mike’s father Woodrow Procter played First-Class cricket for Eastern Province and elder brother Anthony Procter too played for Natal. Mike’s cousin Andrew Procter also represented Eastern Province and Western Province in First-Class cricket.

2.  Pre-teen prodigy: Hailing from a family of cricketers, it was easy for Procter to choose his career. He hit five centuries at Highbury Preparatory School as a 12-year-old.

3.  A keeper-batsman to off-spinner to a fast-bowler: Early on, Procter played in his school side as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Then his coach convinced him to bowl off-spin but later on he took up fast bowling and excelled in it.

4.  Versatile sportsman: Procter was a natural athlete. He was fly half in the Rugby XV, and also made it to school teams of hockey, squash, lawn tennis and athletics.

5.  Wrong-footed: As a fast bowler, Procter had an awkward chest-on action and it seemed that he was bowling off the wrong foot.

6.  Cleaning kit in exchange of cricket: Procter toured England along with Barry Richards and Lee Irvine as a member of Wilfred Isaacs XI in 1966. At the same time the Garry Sobers-led West Indies side toured England. The young cricketers didn’t have enough money to buy tickets for the Test but managed free entry in exchange of cleaning West Indian players’ kits. It must have been an experience for the white players who have grown in a nation in clutches of racism!

7.  Shining with the ball on Test debut: Procter made his Test debut against Australia at Durban in January 1967. He managed only a run with the bat but claimed match figures of 7 for 98 in the match. Unfortunately, his Test career was limited to 7 Tests, where he scored 226 runs at 25.11 and picked up 41 wickets at 15.02.

8.  Years of international isolation: South Africa were banned from international cricket in 1971 due to their apartheid policies and ICC refused to acknowledge the nation as a member. In South Africa: The Years of Isolation and Return to International Cricket Procter recalled his frustration.

He wrote, “At the time I felt it would be a short ban, that soon we would be welcomed back into the fold. Then it dawned on me that we were in for a long period of isolation.” He added, “I was hurt, disappointed, angry at our own government and at world cricket’s ruling authority. An international sportsman can’t wait to have a go at opposition of equal stature, to test his mettle at the highest level. Now we South Africans were out in the cold.”

9.  Proctershire: He played for Gloucestershire in between 1965 and 1981 and fans jokingly called the club ‘Proctershire’ for the amazing exploits of the South African all-rounder.

10.  Great all-round feats against Worcestershire and Leicestershire: In 1977, against Worcestershire, he scored a hundred before lunch and claimed match-figures of 13 for 73. Again in 1979, Leicestershire fell to his ire. He again got a hundred before lunch and claimed a hat-trick.

11.  Between Sobers and Shastri: Mike Procter was the second cricketer to hit sixes off six consecutive balls in First-Class cricket, Garry Sobers being the first. Unfortunately, they did not come in the same over, against Somerset at Taunton in 1979.

He lofted the last two balls of left-arm spinner Dennis Breakwell’s second over into the stands. At the other end, Ian Botham bowled a maiden to Andy Stovold. When Brian Rose asked Breakwell to continue, Procter lofted him over Taunton Stands in the direction of St James’ Churchyard. The next ball landed in the car park. The next, on top of the ground toilets.

Much to the joy of his Gloucestershire teammates, Procter swung his bat and sent the next ball through the window of the dressing-room.

12.  After Fry and The Don: In 1971 Procter slammed 119 against Natal B, 129 against Transvaal B, 107 against Orange Free State, 174 against Eastern Transvaal, 106 against Griqualand West and 254 against Western Province in consecutive innings. In the process he became the third batsman after CB Fry and Don Bradman to score six back-to-back First-Class hundreds.

13.  The walk-off: Transvaal XI and The Rest met in a high-intensity match at Newlands on April 3, 1971. Procter bowled the first ball to Richards before both openers (Brian Bath being the other) and The Rest fielders famously walked off in protest against Apartheid.

 14.  Hat-trick in the next game and all LBW: Procter didn’t stop there. In the very next game against Yorkshire, Procter bagged another hat-trick, all trapped leg-before.

15.  A good man-manager: Procter captained Gloucestershire from 1977 to 1981, leading them to Benson and Hedges Cup triumph in 1977. Later, as the director of coaching at Northamptonshire, he guided them to victory in the 1989–90 NatWest Trophy final. He was also the coach of South Africa in 1994 that beat England at Lord’s by 356 runs.

16.  Married Maryna Godwin

Maryna Godwin

In 1969, Procter met tennis player Maryna Godwin and soon they got married. A year back, in the US Open, she reached the quarterfinal stage.

17.  Impeccable First-Class record: Procter retired in the 1988-89 season with enviable First-Class and List A record. He appeared in 401 First-Class games and had 271 List A outings. He ended with a First-Class batting average of 36.01 and picked 1417 wickets at 19.53. In List A, he scored runs at almost 28 and claimed 344 wickets at 18.76.

18.  Controversial stint as match-referee: Procter became the ICC match-referee in 2002 and officiated 47 Tests, 162 ODIs and 15 T20Is. He did get involved in some unwanted controversies. He refereed the forfeited The Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006. Later, he also banned Harbhajan Singh for three Tests on charges of racism after the infamous Sydney Test of 2008 that saw the ‘Monkeygate’ controversy. Sunil Gavaskar criticised Procter’s decision, “a white man taking a white man’s word against a brown man.” (link to monkey-gate)

19.  Convenor of selectors: In October 2008, Cricket South Africa appointed Procter as the convenor of selectors.

Inputs from Arunabha Sengupta and Abhishek Mukherjee

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)