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Mail & Guardian Reporter
28 Jul 2015 12:57
South African cricketer Clive Rice died on Tuesday at age 66. Read an extract from The Pacemen – 100 years of South African fast bowlers.
Messages of condolences have poured in online for South African cricket legend Clive Edward Butler Rice who passed away on Tuesday at age 66, reports African News Agency.
“Sorry to hear about the
passing of Clive Rice ‘Ricey’… Astute captain and a man that played the game
hard! RIP #CliveRice,” tweeted former South African cricketer Herschelle Gibbs.
sportspeople, politicians, and cricket supporters tweeted messages of condolence and paid tribute to the late cricket coach and former
South African captain.
Another former South
African cricketer Pat Symcox also tweeted: “Devastated… A great friend and
wonderful man… Clive Rice has passed away. The world is a poorer place.”
English county cricket club
Nottinghamshire said they were saddened by the news of the passing of their
former manager: “In remembrance of Clive Rice, the flags at Trent Bridge will
be flown at half-mast today.”
“Clive Rice, may the Good
Lord hold you in His big hand, may he comfort your family in this sad time.
have lost a legend,” tweeted TV pundit and former Springbok World Cup winner
Political analyst Eusebius
McKaiser recalled one of his favourite newspaper headlines, “You can’t Cook
without Rice!” while trade union Solidarity tweeted, “RIP ‘Mister Mean
On Facebook, user Marlon
Kruger wrote, “He was one of the reasons I started playing the game. Clive
Rice, Sylvester Clark and Adrian Kuiper. Thanks for the memories Clive Rice.”
Former Western Cape community policing forum chairperson Hanif Loonat said
he had spoken to Rice recently. “Spoke to Clive Rice
about three weeks ago. I reminded him that he needed to introduce his bowling
academy in the previously disadvantaged areas. We also debated on his
[Facebook] wall. Today we are told that he succumbed to cancer. R.I.P. the
pride of South African Cricket. Long live his spirit.”
In March, Rice – whose 66th
birthday was on July 23 – had undergone surgery for a brain tumour in Bangalore,
India, before succumbing to cancer.
Johannesburg Cricket shop
owner Mike Hermanson had regular contact with Rice. Last Friday they chatted
during the ODI game between Bangladesh and South Africa.
“Clive did not sound too
well on Friday but news of his passing has come as a shock. For some now we had
contact once a week and despite his illness he always maintained a jovial
“Some ago he jokingly said
to me that the brain tumour was causing him to hook his [golf] shot and he
needed to go to India to have it removed.”
This chapter, on Clive Rice as a bowler, first appeared in Drew Forrest’s book The Pacemen – 100 years of South African fast bowlers.
G Cook b Rice 2
RLS Armitage b Rice 1
DH Howell c Dyer b Rice 5
I Foulkes retired hurt 12
AL Wilmot c Jennings b Rice 0
RG Fensham retired hurt 9 …
This notorious Currie Cup encounter,
between Eastern Province and the Transvaal “Mean Machine” at the Wanderers in
March 1980, was “like the Vietnam War for EP”, Clive Rice told the website
SportsCentral. “I hit Ivor [Foulkes] on the head and also broke Russell
Fensham’s arm a couple of overs later … The EP batting order from three to five
all had bandages or plaster casts after the first day’s play. The game did not
Indeed. On a “green mamba” that, according
to one participant, could only be distinguished from the outfield by the
presence of stumps and white lines, EP were shot out for 94 in the first
innings and 46 in the second, with Rice returning match figures of 9/38. The
blow to Foulkes’s head, in which resulted in 15 stitches, is said to have
permanently sapped his confidence in facing quick bowling.
“Ruthless” is a term often applied to Rice.
In his South African benefit brochure, Garth le Roux likened him to another
great all-rounder, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, in body build, action and attitude.
“Both are ruthless when they have the ball in
their hands. Neither would think twice about propelling the 51/2 ounce ball
straight up number eleven’s nose if he happens to be standing between his team
and victory,” Le Roux wrote. “In 1977 I handed out one too many to Ricey – and
I got my just rewards a few hours later in the form of 12 stitches in the
For columnist Frank Heydenrych, Rice “was
quick and he was ruthless. He WAS the Mean Machine.”
If this suggests a bloodthirsty temperament
in the mould of, say, the West Indies’s Roy Gilchrist, the brochure offers a
corrective. Rice was “hard but courteous … [and] enormously respected as a
player and a man” (former England captain Mike Brearley); and “a quietly
spoken, well-mannered, thoughtful individual” (Ali Bacher). Another commentator
singles out a quality of mischievousness – epitomised by the (then)
spread in the pulp magazine Scope
of Rice posing in the buff with a jumbo cricket bat shielding his bails. In Cricket in the Shadows Vincent van der
Bijl takes exception to Rice’s authoritarian leadership style, but discerns
“sensitivity under a hard outer shell”.
What marked out Rice’s bowling – indeed,
his entire approach to cricket, including its business side – was an iron will
to win and a thoroughly modern, hard-nosed, career-minded professionalism,
which had been gaining ground since the Fifties and burst into the open in the
breakaway World Series Cricket (WSC) of Australian media baron Kerry Packer.
Bacher, then managing director of the
Transvaal Cricket Council, described Rice as “the most professional of all
South Africa’s professional cricketers, with a keen sense of responsibility to
the sponsors of the game”. Further underlining this was his fanatical
cultivation of physical fitness. England keeper Alan Knott, another gym junkie,
said that before a WSC tour to New Zealand he saw the South African “sprinting up and down the length of the
ground until he was sick”.
Rice was a natural for the WSC, both
because of the rewards it promised – $25 000 for a three-month season, at a
time when he earned about R120 a season for Transvaal – and its ferociously
competitive ethos. Seen as an inconsistent performer in the mid-Seventies, he
came into his own in the tournament’s second year, 1978/9, both with the ball
(7/169 at 24.14 in three Supertests) and the bat.
The experience appears to have toughened
him in another way – sacked by his English county, Nottinghamshire, over the
Packer jaunt, he was rehired after mounting a challenge in the Old Bailey with
Packer’s support, and, in 1981, led the club to its first county championship
since the reign of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce 52 years earlier. In that year
he was also named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year.
Pivotal to the trophy, and to another
partly under his captaincy six years later, was his new-ball collaboration with
New Zealand fast-bowling legend Richard Hadlee. Hadlee observes that because of
their combined menace, “other counties feared Notts”.
In 1981 the two strike
bowlers, then at the height of their powers, accounted for 170 first-class
scalps, 65 of them pinned to Rice’s shield. “I’ve always missed having a
bowling partner at the other end,” Hadlee wrote. “To have Clive … worked
wonders for me and the club.”
The consensus is that Rice could be as
quick as any of his contemporaries: “His bowling, when he puts it together, is
just as lethal and effective as other fast bowlers in world cricket,” was
Hadlee’s assessment. Imran said he was “yards faster” than Ian Botham, as he
extracted extra pace and bounce by leaning back before he released the ball,
but that in the early 1980s he could not swing it like the Englishman.
By the end of the decade he could still
terrorise Kim Hughes’s rebel Australians, his feats in six “tests” against
them including 4/19 and a hat-trick. However, he had become a more nuanced
performer, acquiring the arts of swing and cut and deploying the delivery of
highest pace as a strategic variation.
Thirty years on it is hard to recall the
feverish intensity of provincial cricket during the boycott years: starved of
exposure on the world stage, the professional ambitions of that brilliantly
gifted generation were redirected into the domestic game. In this setting Rice
was enormously influential: captain from 1981, he presided over a rampant
Transvaal that landed five Currie Cup trophies.
that if his batting was most prized at Notts, Transvaal held Rice’s exploits
with the ball in highest esteem. They spanned quite a period: in 1979/80, his annus mirabilis, he grabbed 43 Currie
Cup wickets at 11.76; eight years later, including a 15-month layoff because of
back trouble, he could still manage 30 at 16.6.
Rice makes no secret of the fact that he
instructed the Wanderers curator to prepare green surfaces that offered carry
and seam movement. Conditions were the same for both sides, he argues, pointing
out that when Transvaal was on the receiving end in the 1980 “Vietnam war”,
Graeme Pollock took the EP bowling apart, making 157.
“In World Series you had to bowl at 90 mph
and the batsmen had to know how to play that kind of pace,” he said. “Back in
SA it was saloon cars as opposed to Formula One: a lot of provincial players
just didn’t have the technique.”
Barry Richards was the model: the trigger
movement was back and across, rather than on to the front foot, “and when you
saw that, you knew you were in for a tough time”.
As Transvaal skipper Rice applied the
lessons of Trent Bridge, where the batsman-friendly surfaces meant an annual
tussle with Derbyshire over who would finish bottom of the log. “Mike Smedley
[the Notts captain] used to tell the groundsman: ‘Cut that grass or we’ll both
get the sack …’ The pros’ only concern was to make 1 000 runs a season and get
their contracts renewed,” Rice said. “That made me angry – I was interested in
Picked for the aborted 1971/2 tour of
Australia, Rice led South Africa in most
of the rebel “tests” of the Eighties, but saw official international service
only as skipper of the new-era side that played three ODIs in India in 1991.
His career also spanned one of cricket’s
great turning points, the adoption of crash helmets, on Packer’s insistence,
during the WSC. A psychological threshold was crossed when, instead of being
felled by a bouncer to the head, a helmet-wearing Tony Greig instructed Dennis
Lillee “to piss off and get on with bowling”.
A sad irony of his benefit brochure is the
chorus of regret from leading black players of the time, including West Indian
Viv Richards, that Rice had been barred from the test arena.
“It was all a political situation that we
players could do nothing about despite the fact that overseas, Holding, Garner,
Richards were our mates,” Rice told me. “So do I have respect for politicians?
Not a lot.”
class career (1969-1994): 930 wickets at 22.49. S/R: 52.2
tests (18): 28 wickets at 22.39. S/R: 56.1
The Pacemen – 100
years of South African fast bowlers is available as an e-book from Amazon
at and from Takealot.
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