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Transitional South Africa has shown character: Mike Procter

A formidable all-rounder in his time, an impact cricketer and a game-changer, Mike Procter is among the golden greats of the game.

His Test career was cut short by the South African government’s then apartheid policies – he played all his seven Tests against Australia, knocking over 41 batters and scoring 226 runs.

In first class cricket, he featured a lot in English county cricket. Procter, generating extreme pace, took out a mind-boggling 1,417 batters at 19.53 and scored a whopping 21,936 runs at 36.01.

The South African legend spoke to Sportstar, in an exclusive conversation on Wednesday.

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What are his thoughts on a transitional South African team? Procter answered, “The side has shown character chasing down 240 against India at the Wanderers, an above par score to chase on that pitch. They are taking on an Indian team that has defeated Australia in Australia. And yet this has been a hard-fought series.”

Procter added, “And the skipper Dean Elgar is a gutsy player. He knows his strengths and limitations. Somewhere his character rubs on this team.”

Asked about Kagiso Rabada’s 50th Test, Procter said, “He’s strong, got great stamina, can move the ball and he’s fast and hostile. He can change matches. He will play in a lot more Tests.”

Queried about tall left-armer Marco Jansen’s emergence, Procter said,”He has the left-armer’s angle and bounce. Very promising.”

Procter was sure about who the best Indian batter was. “It’s your captain. Virat has been a magnificent player. You can see this in the manner he goes about his business. He’s among the greats.”

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And Jasprit Bumrah has caught his attention. “He’s got a unique action, has bounce and movement. India now has great depth in its pace attack. Someone like Mohammed Shami is so good.”

Travelling to his playing days, Procter revealed Viv Richards, Graeme Pollock and Sunil Gavaskar were the toughest trio he bowled at. “Richards was destructive, Pollock could play you so easily and Gavaskar’s bat, he played for Somerset, was always broad when I bowled at him.” 

And Joel Garner was the most challenging bowler he faced. “Garner was difficult to face with his lift but they were all dangerous; Holding, Roberts, Thomson and Lillee.”

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“I played in the era of great all-rounders, both within the South African side and outside, like Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, and Richard Hadlee. Today apart from Ben Stokes, there are no great pace-bowling all-rounders around. And it is not a question of workload.”, he said.

“The numbers indicate that Jacques Kallis was the finest all-rounder ever,” he added.

The legend was worried about players leaving Test cricket for lucrative Twenty20 leagues. “I think the leagues are having some impact. At the same time, I believe it is hard for the cricketers mentally to stay in a ‘bubble’ for long.”

Simply put, they don’t make them like Procter anymore.

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