South Africa cricket legend Mike Procter dies at 77 – family

South Africa cricket legend and former national coach Mike Procter died on February 17, 2024 at the age of 77, his family told AFP. AFP

South Africa cricket legend and former national coach Mike Procter died on Saturday at the age of 77, his wife told AFP.

“He suffered a complication during surgery, became unconscious and never woke up,” Maryna Procter said.

Procter was an outstanding all-rounder who became South Africa’s first coach in the post-apartheid era and had a controversial stint as an International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee.

On Monday his family revealed that he had suffered a “cardiac incident” while recovering in a hospital intensive care unit following routine surgery.

Procter was being treated in a hospital near his hometown, the coastal city of Durban.

Procter’s international playing career with South Africa was cut short in 1970 when his country was banished from world cricket because of its apartheid government.

Before the ban, South Africa won six of the seven Tests in which he played, all against Australia.

Procter was renowned primarily as a fearsome fast bowler, taking 41 wickets at an average of 15.02 runs in his seven Tests.

But he was also a flamboyant batsman, and equalled a world batting record when he hit six first-class centuries in successive innings.

Post-democracy, South Africa returned to international cricket, Procter became coach of the international side and led them to the semi-finals of the 1992 World Cup, while they also had Test series wins against India and Sri Lanka and shared series with Australia (twice) and England.

Procter played first-class cricket for 16 years, including 14 seasons with English county Gloucestershire, five of them as captain, where he achieved legendary status.

In South Africa, he played most of his cricket for Natal, the province where he was born.

His six successive centuries were made for the then Rhodesia between 1970 and 1971, culminating in a career-best 254 against Western Province.

He scored 21,082 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 36.92, hitting 47 centuries, and took 1,357 wickets at an average of 19.07 runs.

Turbulent tenure 

Procter was an international match referee between 2002 and 2008. It was a turbulent tenure during which he was twice involved in Tests that were called off.

New Zealand’s tour of Pakistan in 2002 was abandoned when a bomb blast opposite the team’s hotel in Karachi shattered windows and killed 12 people. The Test was called off and the New Zealanders flew home.

Four years later, umpire Darrell Hair accused the Pakistan team of altering the condition of the ball in a match against England at the Oval. The Pakistanis refused to go back on the field after an ensuing tea interval.

When the players did not reappear, Hair and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove declared that Pakistan had forfeited the match –- a decision made without consulting Procter, who was negotiating with the Pakistanis to go back.

The incident led to the ICC changing their rules so that a match could not be called off without the consent of a match referee.

Procter was involved in a bigger controversy in 2008 when he found Indian player Harbhajan Singh guilty of racially abusing Australia’s Andrew Symonds.

The decision was made after a lengthy hearing which Procter said was based on the evidence available.

It was overturned after an appeal chaired by a judge, during which the Indians introduced what Procter said was evidence they had not presented at the initial hearing.

It was Procter’s last series as a match referee and he had a stint as convener of the South African selectors from 2008 until 2011 before stepping away from the game.

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