Mike Proctor, South African cricketer, 1946–2024

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In 1970, South Africa stood at the pinnacle of world cricket. The national team hosted Australia in four Tests – the longer version of the game, played over several days – and won each match by huge margins. Players such as Barry Richards and the Pollock brothers, Graeme and Peter, seemed to dominate the game for the remainder of the decade.

Nevertheless, none of the cricketers who beat Australia and are regarded as the best team in South Africa's history ever played another Test match. Under a ban that lasted until 1991, South Africa was excluded from the official international cricket circuit due to the government's apartheid policies.

Mike Proctor, the flaxen-haired sweeper, who has died aged 77, was 23 when he defeated Australia in 1970. But he was already recognized as a highly skilled all-rounder – a fearsome fast bowler and a tough catch in the field.

Proctor is never bitter about his missed opportunities. Instead, he once said: “Yes, I lost a Test career, but what is a Test career compared to the suffering of 40 million people? A lot of people have lost a lot in those years, and if we can play a part in changing an unjust system by missing out on a Test career, that's fine with me.

Proctor matched words with actions. He and other cricketers critical of apartheid issued a joint protest in 1971, insisting that South African players be selected on the basis of merit, not color or race. With the end of white rule and South Africa's re-entry into world cricket, it was fitting that Proctor was appointed coach of the national team for the new era. In the Durban area where he spent his later years, he established a foundation to help underprivileged children.

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Picked up in 2008, Mike Proctor never grumbles about missed opportunities and went on to mentor underprivileged young players in South Africa. © Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

Rihan Richards, Chief Executive of Cricket South Africa, said: „His character and passion for transforming the game, ensuring its growth among all segments of our population and mentoring hundreds of underprivileged youth in the Durban area is testament to this. „Batball.”

Proctor was born on September 15, 1946 in Durban into a cricket-loving family. As a youngster, he showed great confidence as a batsman, scoring back-to-back centuries in school cricket. CB Fry, who played for England before the First World War, and Australian Donald Bradman, generally regarded as the game's greatest player, equaled the world record by scoring six centuries in consecutive innings. Proctor became the first cricketer to score two centuries in a single match and take a hat-trick.

However, many cricket lovers will remember Proctor for his unusual right-arm bowling action. The quick, guileless arm and leg movements that drove his ball out, often a quick, accurate inswinger, did not silence even the best batsmen of the West Indies, Viv Richards.

In 1969, Proctor married South African tennis player Marina Godwin. They had three children.

Only he played Seven Tests But he took 41 wickets at an average of 15.02. Less efficient as a batsman he scored 226 runs at an average of 25.11. English cricket commentator Mark Nicholls rates Proctor as one of the eight greatest post-World War II all-rounders, along with Keith Miller, Garfield Sobers, Richard Hadley, Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Proctor's post-apartheid comrade Jacks. Callis.

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Ali Bacher, who captained South Africa to its 1970 victory, said he considered Proctor one of the country's three greatest players of all time, along with Richards and Graeme Pollock. Proctor was also admired as a captain. Mike Brearley, one of England's most brilliant captains, picked Proctor as one of the 11 best players he had played against or seen, describing him as „substantial, aggressive and good-natured”.

Proctor played most of his cricket for Gloucestershire and Wiston, the cricketers' almanac, named him one of its five players of the year in its 1970 edition, writing: “He represents what the ancient game needs everywhere – a genuine personality, a capable performer and equally important. Every minute on the field is to be enjoyed.

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