End of a magnificent innings as Mike Procter is remembered

Pupils from Solomon Mahlangu Primary School in Cornubia pay tribute to cricket legend Mike Procter at his funeral service in uMhlanga. It is one of the schools supported by Procter and his foundation. | Dominique Owen

Pupils from Solomon Mahlangu Primary School in Cornubia pay tribute to cricket legend Mike Procter at his funeral service in uMhlanga. It is one of the schools supported by Procter and his foundation. | Dominique Owen

Published Feb 25, 2024


Durban — Saturday marked the end of a remarkable innings in the cricketing world as friends and family of all-rounder Mike Procter bid farewell to one of the game’s legends at his funeral and wake in Durban.

Procter’s sudden death last Saturday at the age of 77 plunged the cricket fraternity into mourning as they paid tribute to one of the greatest players of his generation.

“A desperate loss, a great sadness,” said English cricket commentator and former player Mark Nicholas in his recorded message to those who attended the funeral service at the Grace Family Church in uMhlanga.

Procter was South Africa’s first cricket coach after the country re-entered the international arena following years of isolation because of apartheid.

His illustrious career included seven Test matches for South Africa against Australia, until his international playing career was cut short due to sanctions.

Procter also played county cricket, representing Gloucestershire from 1968 to 1981, and the county ended up being called “Proctershire” because of his dominating presence on the field.

The team said on its website: “In an online poll in 2020, Mike was voted the greatest ever overseas star to play for Gloucestershire, a county he made his home for some 13 years …”

At the funeral service, former South African Test captain and an administrator of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, Dr Ali Bacher, shared some fond memories of the player.

Procter’s friend, Tich Smith regaled the congregation with tales of their enduring friendship as he struggled to hold back the tears.

“He had a heart for the downtrodden, the destitute and the poor,” said Smith. Procter was passionate about taking cricket to children in disadvantaged communities.

Pupils of the Solomon Mahlangu Primary School at Cornubia sang at his funeral and read messages of support to his family.

On their website, Nick Bryan, a trustee of the Mike Procter Foundation, said the sporting legend had been in hospital for a “relatively routine surgery” but suffered a heart attack after the operation.

“Mike was very excited about this tangible progress towards his vision of rolling out sports and life skills coaching to underprivileged children in South Africa.

“It was Mike’s wish that the foundation supports this vision after he is gone.”

Journalist and documentary maker Lungani Zama, who co-wrote Procter’s biography with him, said the cricketer dedicated the latter stages of his life to creating opportunities for children from the most underprivileged areas to get access to the game.

“But more than just equipment, he gave us time. He would go and hold practices at our primary school just on the outskirts of Durban. He donated and got donations of kits, got donations for food – even in Covid – to make sure that the families of these kids that he was coaching were looked after,” said Zama.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) said in a statement last week that Procter was “one of the most admired cricketers of his time and one of the most feared opponents”.

The ICC said that Procter scored 21 936 runs in 401 first-class matches, including 48 centuries, and finished with 1 417 wickets. In 271 List A matches, he scored 6 624 runs and took 344 wickets.

“Procter officiated as a match referee in 47 Tests, 162 ODIs and 15 T20Is before stepping down in November 2008 to take up his role as Cricket South Africa’s convenor of selectors,” it said.

Journalist and broadcaster Piers Morgan, famous for his dissenting views, hailed Procter as one of the nicest people ever. Taking to social media this week, Morgan wrote: “RIP Mike ‘Proccie’ Procter, one of cricket’s greatest all-rounders, and the nicest of men. Lost his Test career to South Africa’s apartheid sporting ban, but said: ‘What is a Test career compared to the suffering of 40 million people? 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.’

“One of many of my childhood cricket heroes who lived up to every expectation when I got to know him later in life. Magnificent, swashbuckling player, and an even better bloke.”

Procter is survived by his wife Maryna and his children Jessica, Tammy and Gregg.

Sunday Tribune