Clive Rice (above) could have locked horns with Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Richard Hadlee at the highest level; instead, he had to remain content with an exceptional First-Class career © Getty Images
Clive Rice (above) could have locked horns with Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Richard Hadlee at the highest level; instead, he had to remain content with an exceptional First-Class career © Getty Images

Clive Rice, one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of the sport, was born July 23, 1949.  But for South Africa’s apartheid ban, Rice would probably have been a household name by now. Abhishek Mukherjee lists 15 facts about the champion.

Clive Edward Butler Rice was no ordinary cricketer. Had it not been for South Africa’s apartheid policy, he would probably have emerged as South Africa’s greatest all-rounder — at par with the likes of Aubrey Faulkner, Mike Procter, Jacques Kallis, and Shaun Pollock. He would almost certainly have been named alongside Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Richard Hadlee — the iconic all-rounders who dominated 1980s, The Decade of the All-Rounders.

Rice was a giant of domestic cricket, and even that is an understatement. He led Nottinghamshire in the County Championship, taking them to heights they had forgotten. He also turned Transvaal (now Gauteng) into a ruthless, formidable unit — to the extent that they called the side Mean Machine in South Africa. Clive Rice: How he compared against Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Richard Hadlee

The numbers are staggering: 26,331 runs at 41 with 28 hundreds; 930 wickets at 22 with 23 five-wicket hauls; and 401 catches, mostly in the slips. His mentorship of Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, and Kevin Pietersen is well-documented, as is his stellar role in helping Pietersen to move to England.

Equally documented is outspokenness: never hesitant to call a spade a spade, Rice kept insisting Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer had been murdered; and that South African cricket administrators were no good, and were responsible for the locals to move outside the country to seek greener pastures.

Here, then, is a list of facts about one of the greatest cricketers in history.

1. Three generations of First-Class cricketers — with gaps:

Rice was born in 1949, three decades after his grandfather Philip Salkeld Syndercombe Bower finished his First-Class career. On his First-Class debut (for Oxford against MCC), Bower scored 78 batting at No. 10 before taking three wickets.

Bower’s great-uncle Christopher Nevill, a student at Winchester College, played for Cambridge back in the 1820s. He took 9 wickets from 3 matches — but all were bowled.

2. Almost a Test cap

Rice’s rise in South African domestic cricket was meteoric. On his First-Class debut for Transvaal B against North Eastern Transvaal at Pretoria, Rice scored 81 and 64, and claimed 4 for 56. His first season resulted in 241 runs at 60 and 17 wickets at 15. He was named South African Cricket Annual Cricketer of the Year in 1971.

Rice made it to the Transvaal side, was selected for South Africa’s tour to Australia 1971-72. Unfortunately, the tour was cancelled — and Rice never played a Test.

3. Lone hand at Bournemouth

On a 1981 summer morning at Bournemouth, Rice scored 105 not out against Hampshire. Unfortunately, nobody else went past 10, and Nottinghamshire were bowled out for 143, the lowest First-Class total to include a hundred.

Note: Rice’s record has been emulated. Gujranwala were bowled out for 143 against Bahawalpur in 2001-02. Rizwan Malik scored a round 100 not out, but Rice has had a bigger proportion of runs (73.4% to Malik’s 69.9%).

4. The puns

Rice’s surname, of course, led to many a pun. However, the most curious of these came in Datsun Shield Final, 1980, when Alan Kourie caught Allan Lamb off Rice. Lamb c Kourie b Rice remains one of the most iconic “culinary” scorecard entries in the history of cricket, matched only by Cook c Mustard b Onions.

5. For the players, of the players, by the players

Rice was a part of Kerry Packer’s SuperTests. Once he returned, he demanded a higher appearance money for his Transvaal teammates. Rice’s demands led to accusations that he was a “mercenary”, but he was not willing to relent.

The authorities eventually gave in, but the bitterness with the board persisted. Rice and Ali Bacher were not on very good terms for years that followed. The selectors did not hesitate to drop Rice for World Cup 1992.

6. The declaration

As per researches by renowned cricket statisticians Charles Davis and Aslam Siddiqui, Rice is one of only two known captains to declare a First-Class innings closed with his own score on 99. After Western Province had scored 352 for 7 at Newlands in 1990-91, Transvaal reached 295 for 6 overnight with Rice on 99. He declared on that score to push a result, Western Province were bowled out for 148, but Transvaal ran out of time.

Note: Miles Howell was the only other captain to do the same, for Free Foresters against Oxford in 1934. The situation was eerily similar, with Free Foresters trailing by 32 at stumps on Day Two and Howell on 99. Oxford were bowled out as well, but a victory could not be enforced.

7. All-rounder of the era

Of Rice’s phenomenal tally, 16,110 runs and 596 wickets came for Nottinghamshire. John Gunn and James Iremonger are the only others to have achieved the 15,000 runs-500 wickets double for the Club. Rice also remains the only Nottinghamshire cricketer to score two hundreds in the same match against Somerset.

But his exploits do not end there. With 7,632 runs and 364 wickets Rice is the only Transvaal (or Gauteng) cricketer to the 5,000 runs-300 wickets double for the state.

8. You can’t get me out!

Playing against Somerset at Trent Bridge in 1980 Rice scored 131* and 114*. He became only the second Nottinghamshire batsman (after Joe Hardstaff Jr in 1949) to score twin unbeaten hundreds in the same match. Unlike Rice, Hardstaff Jr was not leading.

9. The Transvaal double

Playing against Western Province in 1975-76, Rice took 7 for 62 and 4 for 50 in addition to innings of 90 and 11. He became the second (after Aubrey Faulkner) to score 100 runs and take 10 wickets in a match for Transvaal. He was also the first to 100 runs and 11 wickets.

10. The old debutant

Rice never seemed to age, and played First-Class cricket till 45. He led South Africa on his One-Day Internationals (ODI) debut at 42 years 110 days. Only Norman Gifford (for England, at 44 years 359 days) had led on ODI debut at a higher age.

Note: Steven Lubbers (Netherlands, 42 years 330 days) and Rahul Sharma (Hong Kong, 43 years 306 days) have later debuted as ODI captains at an age more than Rice’s at the time of writing this article.

11. Over the moon!

Leading South Africa after their apartheid ban was an emotional moment for Rice. He was overwhelmed by the reception the South Africans received in Calcutta. Meeting Mother Teresa was a touching moment, as was the moment when he and Mohammad Azharuddin released doves during toss.

His response was curt but touching: “Now I know how Neil Armstrong felt.”

12. Awards galore

Rice was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1981 and South African Cricket Annual Cricketer of the Year four times (in 1971, 1985, 1986, and 1986). He also won The Cricket Society Wetherall Award for the Leading All-Rounder in English thrice — in 1977, 1979, and 1981.

Note: This seems to be a Nottinghamshire monopoly. Richard Hadlee is the only one to have won this four times; Rice has won it thrice; and Franklyn Stephenson, the man who followed Hadlee in the Notts side, have managed it twice. Imran Khan and Martin Bicknell are the only others to have won it twice.

13. Leading from the front

Rice captained in 263 First-Class matches. If we exclude all Englishmen and/or men who have played Tests for England. Clive Lloyd (222) is the only other one over 200.

14. A bat; only a bat

Rice featured in a commercial for Olympic Sportsway that involved him and only a bat; it caused quite a stir in the conservative South Africa, and was banned almost immediately. It served its purpose; Olympic Sportsway sports range was sold out in six weeks.

15. Champion of champions

Remember that iconic photograph — the one with Hadlee, Rice, Kapil, Botham, and Malcolm Marshall standing on a staircase (the one we cannot post because we do not own the rights to it)? That was shot during the Silk Cut Single Wicket Challenge in Arundel in September 1985. Rice emerged Champion among Champions, winning £7,000.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)