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South Africa cricket legend Mike Procter dies at 77

'He suffered a complication during surgery, became unconscious and never woke up,' says his wife
AFP/File
AFP/File

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-isolation 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.

However, he refused to feel bitter over being deprived of a lengthy Test career.

“Yes, I lost a Test career. But what is a Test career compared to the suffering of 40 million people?” he famously said.

‘Unjust system’

“Lots of people lost a great deal more in those years, and if by missing out on a Test career we played a part in changing an unjust system, then that is fine by me.”

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.

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.

David Graveney, a former Gloucestershire team-mate of Procter, said the South African “was a fantastic player and quite rightly regarded as one of the best all-rounders that has ever represented Gloucestershire”.

He added: “I don’t think people realise that when Mike played he was playing through great pain in his knee, but that didn’t stop him from performing at the level he did. He was just one of the best I ever played with.

“The phrase ‘Proctershire’ was very apt for Mike. He put in the biggest performances in the biggest games.”

In South Africa, Procter 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.

Journalist Pat Murphy who worked alongside Procter hailed “the superb all-rounder”.

“Wrote 2 books with him, the 1st an hilarious challenge, as he could hardly remember any of his prodigious feats. ‘Look it up in Wisden, mate’ he’d say. Couldn’t ever be annoyed with a great guy,” Murphy wrote on X.

Procter leaves behind his wife and two children.

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