With a hard hitting bat, boasting a blistering square cut, Clive Rice scored more than 26,000 First-class runs averaging over 40 – most of them from the top of the order. As a fast bowler,he took 930 wickets at 22.49. He could bowl genuinely fast. Playing in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, he once let go a furious bouncer at Joel Garner, knocking the bat and gloves in different directions.
Rice spent quarter of a century at the First-Class level, and was 42 by the time he made his debut in One-Day Internationals. He played just three matches, but that solitary tour was a staggering historical event — when he led the Proteans to India on their return to international cricket after 21 years.
In a candid interview with Arunabha Sengupta, CricketCountry’s Chief Cricket Writer, Clive Rice talks about his playing days, the forthcoming Indian tour of South Africa and asserts that both Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer were murdered.
Cricket Country (CC): You made your entry into First-Class cricket just as South Africa was tottering on the brink of isolation. And then all through the seventies and eighties, you could not play on the international stage. Were you initially hopeful that the things would be sorted out quickly?
Clive Rice (CR): Yes, we [the South Africa cricketers of that generation] were optimistic that things would be sorted out and we would get the opportunity to play Test cricket soon. That optimism carried us along right through to 1991 when we returned to play against India. By then I was 42.
CC: And what was the mood when it finally happened? When you toured India?
CR: There was a huge excitement. At the same time we didn’t really know what to expect in India. We wondered if there were going to be incidents, protests. And what we found out was beyond anything that we expected. From the airport to the hotel, streets were lined with people who had turned up to see us. Who arrives in India with streets all lined with people right to the hotel! I don’t think even Obama would get that reception. We had not realised the extent of passion for cricket in India. You just could not believe the support and excitement. It was phenomenal.
CC: Did you expect that sort of an atmosphere and that exciting a match at Eden Gardens on resumption? Allan Donald almost won it for you before Sachin Tendulkar and Pravin Amre took the game away.
CR: The atmosphere was unbelievable. But I would never want to get a seat at the back of the crowd on that ground. It would seem ants were playing the game; it was so far away. The only disappointment was the pitch. It was not a good one-day wicket. It was breaking up from the beginning. After the game, Kapil Dev asked me why I did not complain about the pitch. I said that both the teams had to play on the same wicket. It was not unfair, just disappointing.
CC: You won the very third One-Day International. Did you expect to be so competitive during your very first tour on return?
CR: Well, a lot of guys — like Peter Kirsten, Adrian Kuiper, Kepler Wessels and myself — had stayed up to speed. We used to face men like Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner in the county. At home, the guys used to face Sylvester Clarke, Mike Procter, Garth le Roux, me. All of us continued to improve and kept the standards up to the mark. In India, with the World Cup coming up soon, we wanted to see how far we had regressed in international cricket. In fact, we had not regressed at all.
CC: During the tour of 1992, you had said that your career would be limited to a few Tests. However, after those three ODIs, you did not play for South Africa again. Was it disappointing?
CR: There was a whole political issue around it. I had led Transvaal in the eighties and the team was known as Transvaal Mean Machine. In 1984, we won all the domestic matches except one, which was drawn — with Eastern Province eight wickets down in the second innings — because of three hours of rain. It was a fantastic team (with Graeme Pollock, Jimmy Cook and Sylvester Clarke). And accordingly it bred some resentment, which came up after the 1991 tour. At the Board level there were a lot of issues and I became a scapegoat.
CC: In the seventies and eighties, you also played a lot of cricket against the Rebel Teams that toured South Africa. What was the standard of cricket in those matches?
CR: It depended on the team. I would say Graham Gooch’s England was good. The Australians who visited in the mid-eighties were a pretty good side. The West Indian side was good. The Sri Lankan team was not really of that standard. But, at least we were playing a foreign team.
CC: While you led the South African side against the rebel teams, you often batted high up in the order and did not bowl too much. Was there any particular reason?
CR: Oh, that was only in the early days in 1982-83. I had a back injury that prevented me from bowling. But, by 1985 I was back up to speed. I was the South African Cricketer of the Year in 1986, and I thoroughly enjoyed firing out the Aussies.
CC: You also played a lot of cricket for Nottinghamshire, teaming up with Richard Hadlee…
CR: For the Notts, initially I took the place in the side earlier occupied by Garry Sobers. I was walking in his boots, it was a great challenge. Those days, Nottinghamshire would finish second from the bottom, one point ahead of Derbyshire. And everyone used to be quite content. The attitude was poor. Richard joined when I was the captain. In 1981 we won the championship. By 1987, the attitude had changed completely. Eddie Hemmings, Chris Broad, Tim Robinson, Derek Randall all went on to represent England. They were there to win.
CC: Richard Hadlee and Clive Rice, few sides could have that all-round strength. How did you distribute the roles between yourselves?
CR: Rich [Hadlee] and I had to balance responsibilities. Richard would lead the bowling and I would help. I would in turn focus more on batting and Richard would help. As all-rounders, those were our roles in the side. Of course, there would be days when I would suddenly dominate with the ball and pick up six wickets. Just like we have [Jacques] Kallis now, he is a batsman who can bowl, but not a frontline bowler. For the Notts, I was more of a batsman than a bowler.
CC: You also won several all-rounder competitions against the best in business at that time — Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and Ian Botham.
CR: There were four tournaments — two in England and two in Hong Kong. I won three of the four. I won the two in England, and one at the Kowloon Cricket Club. I lost to Imran in the fourth, held at the Hong Kong Cricket Club. They were single wicket competitions, the rest of the all-rounders bowled at you.
CC: What is it about South Africa that produces all-rounders by the dozen? From Trevor Goddard, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow, Clive Rice to Lance Klusener, Brian McMillan, Shaun Pollock …
CR: If you’re in the nets to practice and you do both bowling and batting properly, you are contributing. In the match you’re always in the game. If you get out for a duck, you don’t spend your time standing in the third-man. You can pick up five wickets and it is great again. This appealed to me. I guess it appealed to all those guys.
CC: When you came into cricket, the South African team of the late sixties and early seventies was a great one. The current South African team is also a superb lot. How do you compare the two sides?
CR: The team in the late sixties and early seventies was a hell of a good side. If it had gone on to play till the late seventies and eighties, it would have been the only team in the world to challenge the West Indies. The side today is very, very good. The spin department is poor but the pace bowlers are excellent.
Having said that, the side of the 1970s would have easily given the current side a run for their money. [AB] de Villers is a good batsman, [Hashim] Amla is a very good one. Of course, Kallis has been very good as well. But they are not Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock. None of them dominate as much as those two used to.
CC: And how would you compare Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander to Peter Pollock and Mike Procter?
CR: They are a strong attack, but Philander would have to be compared with Vincent van der Bijl. He has a similar style. Of course, Vincent being six feet seven would have the advantage of height, and get more bounce. Philander is not in the same class.
CC: You later played a part in the development of Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Lance Klusener. How was it working with them?
CR: Very exciting. They were upcoming players and you had to share what you knew, and they caught on fast. It was great to see them go to the next level quickly.
CC: Now, for something controversial. Could you take us through the Jumbo bat incident?
CR: (laughs) When I posed nude?
CR: You know what? South Africa was a hell of a conservative place. Olympic Sportsway had me pose nude with a bat (it was held strategically enough). This created an unbelievable stir. The ad got banned. Then when I asked what exactly they were banning, it got unbanned. There was a huge coverage. Some cricket officials in Transvaal said I would never captain the side because I was too controversial. People still remember me for doing that ad rather than for the runs I scored. As a result the whole Olympic Sports range sold out in six weeks.
CC: You have gone on record saying that there are reverse apartheid trends plaguing South African cricket...
CR: Yes, there are a lot of political issues. I was lucky I went and played in England. I played with Imran Khan, Joel Garner, Sylvester Clarke. They were all my mates. In sports you earn your respect. But you see these politicians today; they never earned their respect in cricket. People don’t respect them anyway. They come in with their own political agenda. That is why the likes of [Kevin] Pietersen and [Jonathan] Trott go overseas and refuse to put up with this nonsense. In the end, the cricket team suffers.
Recently the South African team were all out for 100 in 12.2 overs in the Twenty20 match against Pakistan (at Centurion). It was the result of atrocious selection.
Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer were murdered
CC: You have also voiced that both Bob Woolmer and Hansie Cronje were murdered.
CR: I have no doubt whatsoever. Around the time of Woolmer’s death, there were occasions when the entire Pakistan team were all out caught. All dismissals in an innings caught. What are the odds [of that happening]? It has happened very rarely in the history of the game.
There were statements made after Bob’s death. First we heard that the trachea had been damaged. Then we were told of a heart attack. How does a doctor say trachea damage first and then heart attack? It would have been disgraceful for image of the World Cup organisers if a murder was revealed.
We in South Africa made a mistake. We should have performed an autopsy on his body when it arrived in the country.
In Cronje’s case, the automated take-off and landing signals were switched off at the airports. I play golf with one of the judges, and got the final case report from him. I sent the report to a friend of mine who deals with air-crashes in his official capacity. He told me how the signals had been switched off. In that respect, the case report was very fishy indeed.
CC: But, what was your reaction when Cronje’s involvement with match-fixing was revealed?
CR: The whole thing was handed badly. The authorities had been indifferent to Shane Warne and Mark Waugh. This also had to be handled the same way.
I called Hansie asking him if I could have rights to his book. It would definitely become a bestseller. Four months before his death, we met and he said he did not want to write it.
I know the way he got involved. He was sitting and innocently talking about the Test match against India in Cape Town, and mentioned that South Africa were going to win. Two weeks later, the bookmaker who had been sitting there listening to him, met him and offered him $20,000 for the information he had innocently shared. Hansie accepted. And with that he was caught in that world.
It had been the same with Waugh and Warne. But, in Hansie’s case it was just bad handling of the issue.
Now there is the explicit rule — if cricketers do it, they will end up in jail. The Pakistani cricketers were caught by London newspapers. Where were the ICC detectives? Why are they not apprehending the culprits? Because it is much bigger. The officials are involved. The detectives are not allowed to function.
Nowadays, IPL and T20 offer entertainment and a lot of financial benefit to the players; all that is good for the game. At the same time, it is designed for bookmakers, designed for betting and fixing.
CC: What are your thoughts about the Indian tour of South Africa slated later this year?
CR: It will be a real good series. It will be a close contest, especially the Tests. It will be great to see Steyn, Philander and (Morne) Morkel bowl to the Indian top order. We want to see Steyn and Tendulkar — the battle between them.
CC: Not everyone is certain Tendulkar will tour.
CR: My advice to Sachin will be to play till not a drop of juice is left in that orange. You are that good a player. You don’t want to regret that you stopped playing early. If you stop now, you will never play again. I played till I was 44. Sachin has at least three years of cricket left. He will know how he can handle things. He understands himself one hundred percent. He is quick to gauge the situation. He reads the game excellently.
CC: You are into racing cars now …
CR: Oh yes, it is all between you, the car and the track. Adrenaline flows. When the corner comes, you have to go round it or else. I love it.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
First Published: March 14, 2013, 9:53 am