The Big Read - Rice: winner among winners

29 July 2015 - 02:17 By Telford Vice


Clive Rice looked like a gentleman, talked like a thug and played cricket like the hard bastard he was until yesterday, when, aged 66, he died of septicaemia in Cape Town. To the unknowing eye Rice was a man of utterly nondescript cut of jib who had resorted to cultivating a cartoon moustache in a pathetic attempt to set himself apart.Those who knew better could have sworn he grew a foot, with shoulders to match, when he stepped onto a cricket ground.In an age when the psychology of sport was more seance than science, Rice knew how to get the best out of his players and himself while reducing opponents to shadows of the men they thought they were. Not even umpires got off easily."Before you walked onto the field he had marked you down from 100% to 60%," a former man in a white coat, Rudi Koertzen, said yesterday.After standing in a match in which Rice was captain, Koertzen took a call from umpires' head, Brian Basson."What went wrong?" Basson asked.Koertzen was surprised. "What do you mean? I thought I had a good game," he said.Basson concurred: "That's exactly what I mean - Clive Rice gave you 100%!"Rice sprang to prominence as a fast bowler and matured into an all-rounder and captain. But only one description fitted him: champion. He led what was then called Transvaal - the Mean Machine - to three Currie Cup titles and Nottinghamshire to two county championships.He was captain in 610 of his 1100 matches as a senior player. His teams won 305 of those games and lost just 168. He engineered 26 innings victories and felt the sting of leading a side who had lost by an innings only eight times.And yet despite all that and more - he won single-wicket competitions against Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee, supposedly the most princely all-rounders of the age - Rice is one of cricket's most tragic figures.He was part of the first generation of white South African players to be denied by apartheid-induced isolation.When South Africa were allowed back into big cricket's fold, he was too old to play more than the three one-day internationals that comprised the ground-breaking 1991 tour to India.In retirement Rice became embittered with the drive to transform the game in South Africa racially and actively steered players elsewhere. Indeed, Kevin Pietersen hightailed it to Trent Bridge when Rice was at Notts as cricket manager.But Rice will be remembered as he was in his pomp: tough, a winner among winners.Graeme Pollock painted that picture yesterday when he related what happened after he had his hand fractured by the rebel Australians' Carl Rackemann at the Wanderers in January 1986."I retired hurt, and I thought I was going to have a restful time of it after that," Pollock said.Like bloody hell."Clive said, 'I want you to pad up'. I thought that was a bit mean - I mean, I had a broken hand."Kevin McKenzie was steaming towards a century but wickets were dwindling. So, at 274-9 and with McKenzie still in double figures, Pollock returned.McKenzie was last out for 110 and Pollock finished unbeaten on 65. Then Rice took 3-8 in six overs as the Australians were shot out for 61 to clinch victory in the five-day match by 188 runs."That summed up 'Ricey'," Pollock said, and it did.The Karaoke kingBack in late 1980s a singing sensation came to South Africa.It wasn't a singer straight out of the Stock Aitken Waterman hit factory- it all had to do with a fiery fast bowler who was also able to bat.The sensation was karaoke and it was Clive Rice who brought it to South Africa.Though the cricketer is remembered for what he did for the game, there was another side to him.Speaking on Talk Radio 702 in February, he told how he had brought karaoke - which originated in Japan - to this country. It debuted at the Alba Hotel, in Johannesburg.It took a while to catch on, but Rice was happy with the results."It was a lot of fun. I was delighted that I had brought it in. When I see all those people singing karaoke now, it is fantastic," he said.There were other sides to Ricey away from the cricket pitch and the Mean Machine. There was a naughty side, which led to his posing naked except for a bat.He was always quick to say that it was a jumbo bat.How he will be rememberedPat Symcox, former Proteas bowler, led the cricket world's tributes to Rice, saying on Twitter: "Devastated. A great friend and wonderful man. The world is a poorer place."Herschelle Gibbs tweeted: "Astute captain and a man that played the game hard."Shaun Pollock wrote: "RIP and thanks for the advice and memories."Alviro Petersen said: "It's a sad day for cricket lovers . Feels like yesterday when we spoke about Lions cricket."Former England cricketer and commentator David Lloyd praised Rice as a "terrific all rounder and a real good bloke" .BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew noted Rice as "tough, combative in the middle, but a very gentle man".Golfer Trevor Immelman said: " I have fond memories of watching him play cricket as a kid growing up in South Africa ."Gary Player called Rice "an inspiration to so many" and Ernie Els described him as "a true SA cricket legend".Rice captained the Transvaal "mean machine" team that won the Currie Cup three times.Politician Tony Leon tweeted: "I remember the headline in Durban when he demolished Natal in the final: 'It's Currie and Rice!'"

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