Mike Procter dies aged 77

The KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union has paid tribute to former Proteas and KwaZulu-Natal all-rounder Mike Procter who died aged 77. Image: Supplied

Obituary: Mike Procter – A legacy left behind

The KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union has paid tribute to former Proteas and KwaZulu-Natal all-rounder Mike Procter who died aged 77.

Mike Procter dies aged 77

The KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union has paid tribute to former Proteas and KwaZulu-Natal all-rounder Mike Procter who died aged 77. Image: Supplied

The KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union, together with the sports fraternity, has received with great sadness and a deep sense of loss, news of the passing of former Proteas and KwaZulu-Natal all-rounder Michael John Procter – affectionately known as Mike Procter – who passed away after falling seriously ill.

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Whilst his passing leaves an unquestionable void in the cricketing world, Procter’s legacy will endure as an inspiration for generations to come.

Known for his dynamic all-round abilities, Procter’s life was multifaceted.

His life as a learner was distinguished, his career as a world class cricketer was outstanding, his leadership prowess was noteworthy and his role as a cricket administrator and coach, remarkable.

He etched his name in cricketing history with a fierce bowling prowess that struck fear into the hearts of opponents and a batting style that commanded respect.

His illustrious career spanned from the 1960s to the 1970s, leaving an indelible mark on the sport.

Mike Procter attended Hilton College

Procter was born on 15 September 1946 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

A product of Highbury Preparatory School and Hilton College, Procter was widely regarded as one of the world’s all-time cricketing greats.

At Highbury Preparatory School, he scored five centuries, including 210 not out against an under-13 Transvaal side.

A natural athlete, his contribution to school sports at Hilton College was enormous.

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He was one of the most versatile sports boys of his time, having excelled in rugby, cricket, hockey, squash, lawn tennis and athletics. He was the flyhalf in the First XV at Hilton College.

Procter played for Natal schools in the Nuffield week and for South African schools in 1963 and 1964.

He was also blessed with incredible leadership skills from a very early age.

This was clearly demonstrated when he served as the vice-captain to Barry Richards in the South African Schools side which toured England in 1963.

Procter inherited a love of cricket from his late father, Woodrow Procter, who while still at school, played for Eastern Province.

A fast bowler, who bowled with brilliant hostility, and a hard hitting and swashbuckling batsman, Procter proved himself as an immense cricketer.

Played just seven Tests

He made his Test debut for South Africa against Australia on 20 January 1967 and in the same year he was adjudicated as the South African Cricketer of the Year.

The international ban on South Africa restricted his Test career to a mere seven appearances, all of them against Australia between 1967 and 1970.

He took 41 wickets at an average of 15.02.

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Procter played for the Rest of the World versus England in 1970, and took 15 wickets at an average of 23.9 in five Test-format matches.

In 1978/79, towards the end of his playing career, Procter played for the World XI in Kerry Packer’s World Series of Cricket in Australia.

He performed with bat and ball in the three ‘Super Tests’ in which he played – his batting average was 34.2 and his bowling average 18.6.

Procter later served as the captain of the South African cricket team against the English rebels XI in 1982.

He played his domestic cricket for Natal (1965/66 – 1968/69 and 1988/89), Western Province (1969/70), Rhodesia (1970/71 – 1975/76) and Orange Free State (1987/88). 

In 1970, Procter joined Sir Donald Bradman and CB Fry as the only batsmen at that time to hit six successive first-class centuries, a feat he (Procter) accomplished for Rhodesia.

He played county cricket in England for 13 years as an overseas player for Gloucestershire and led them to great success, with the his loyal and dedicated fans called it Proctershire.

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He was the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year in 1970 and 1977 and he won the Cricket Society Wetherall Award for the Leading All-Rounder in English First Class cricket in 1978.

Undoubtedly, his greatest feat was Wisden naming him the Cricketer of the Year in 1970.

As an accomplished and feared bowler, Procter was very unorthodox.

He had an awkward chest on action, seeming to bowl off the wrong foot, though not actually doing so, at the end of a very long sprinting run up to the wicket.

His unusual action generated late swing which was unplayable at times.

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Procter took four first-class hat-tricks, two of them all LBWs in consecutive matches against Leicestershire and Yorkshire.

In a Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final in Southampton, England, he took four wickets in five balls, which included the wickets of Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge.

Following his retirement from playing the game, Procter was appointed to the elite panel of match referees by the International Cricket Council, for officiating cricket matches.

After retiring, he served as the Director of Cricket for the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, as well as Northamptonshire county in England.

Procter was appointed as the first post-isolation coach of the South African cricket team, and he was the coach for the tours of the West Indies, India, Sri Lanka and Australia.

Beyond the statistics and accolades, Procter embodied the spirit of cricket.

His sportsmanship, dedication and love for the game endeared him to fans worldwide. Whether donning the South African jersey or contributing to the cricketing world in various capacities post-retirement, Procter’s influence extended far beyond the boundary ropes.

While he was known as the person most-able to give effective leadership, Procter was widely regarded as a systematic and meticulous individual with a gentle courage rooted in a deep love for humanity and an absolute belief in equality and freedom.

When asked about his career being shortened due to international ban on cricket in South Africa, Mike Procter would proudly state that his pain was nothing compared to the pain that was felt by millions in South Africa at the time.

He was a sound coach and a person of great sensitivity; he worked effectively, honestly and selflessly in the pursuit of all that is good, truthful and wonderful; he displayed quiet strength, perseverance and consistency in striving for quality coaching for all cricket players in South Africa and England.

In extending his sincere and heartfelt sympathy and condolence to Mike Procter’s wife, Maryna and the family, KZN Cricket Union’s President, Yunus Bobat indicated that Procter’s devotion to cricket was strong and unwavering.

‘Long and distinguished career’

He said “it was an honour to have recognised Mike Procter at our recent 100 year celebration where we handed Mike a Kingsmead Celebration blazer as a tangible thank you for legacy that Mike has helped Kingsmead build. A true gentleman of the sport, who will be greatly missed by the KZN and South African cricket fraternity.”

Procter led a full and remarkable life, simple and without pretences, and one that serves as a source of inspiration to all those who had the good fortune to know and interact with him. 

He led a life dedicated to his family, friends, colleagues and players. 

His long and distinguished career added lustre and distinction in sport. He has left behind a rich and immortal legacy of the wonderful values he cherished and so bravely upheld. 

His passing away has created a huge void across multiple dimensions and in the lives of many in the cricketing fraternity throughout the world. 

Heinrich Strydom, the CEO of the KZN Cricket Union stated that Mike Procter was a kind-hearted man who was always available to share his wealth of knowledge.

“On behalf of the KZN Cricket family, I would like to extend our sincere condolences to Maryna and the family. Mr Procter was a great man who served the game with distinction. May his soul rest in peace.” said Strydom.

Procter was a friend, mentor and guide, a source of inspiration and a tireless worker on the cricket field. He was a man of boundless energy, an organiser and visionary, a great humanist in the finest sense of the term. Your endless journey has begun, your soul is free. Rest in peace, Mike Procter.