Eleven years ago, the Calcuttans’ affection left Mike Procter, then South Africa’s coach, overwhelmed. This time, of course, Procter is around in a different capacity: As Match Referee.
Also a former selector, Procter is one of five Referees on the ICC’s Elite Panel.
Respected as being among the most outstanding of allrounders, Procter spoke to The Telegraph exclusively on his tribe.
The following are excerpts
On what goes into the making of a quality allrounder
More than anything else, a big heart. I say this because an allrounder wishes to leave a mark in more than one department, is keen to contribute both as batsman and bowler… Also, the love for the game must be immense.
On allrounders in general
It’s nice to have two strings to your bow — there’s less pressure. Psychologically, an allrounder is always better off as he knows he can contribute in two departments… If he fails in one, he can make amends in the other.
On the finest allrounder in his book
(Smiles) Nobody will ever get better than Garfield Sobers. It’s unfair if somebody only rates him as one of the best batsmen of all time, for the simple reason he was also such an outstanding bowler… Could be effective with the new ball, be a wrist spinner and, equally, be a fine orthodox one… Besides, he was superb in the field. You will never have a better package. The opposition, be it at the international or the County level, would be left hoping he had an off day! On his day — and there were many — no opponent could do a thing.
On the Big Four (alphabetically) after the Sobers era
Ian Botham: A complete allrounder, who could do just about everything… Indeed, a great allrounder is one who can win a game either off bat or with the ball. Botham could do both.
Kapil Dev: Brilliant. A bowler with a big heart and somebody who could win the game with his batting.
Richard Hadlee: Probably the lesser allrounder in this group, because he was more a bowling-allrounder as opposed to being a fifty-fifty performer.
Imran Khan: From being a raw youngster, in the early Seventies, he got better and better… In fact, I would give him higher marks because he was such an inspirational leader… You only have to look at the impact he left on cricket in Pakistan.
On the current lot
Frankly, nobody stands out… The only one who comes close is Chris Cairns, but he’s out half the time through injuries.
On Jacques Kallis, seen as having the potential to be counted in the Botham bracket
Jacques is a tremendous cricketer, yet I don’t consider him a match-winning bowler and, thereby, don’t see him today as a true allrounder.
On why, despite the mushrooming of one-day cricket, the number of quality allrounders is thin
I agree with you… Logically, there should be many around… Why it isn’t so, I can’t say… Still, teams are improvising. For instance, look at Rahul Dravid… When he ’keeps, Sourav Ganguly has the option of fielding either an extra bowler or batsman.
On whether the Adam Gilchrists and Jonty Rhodes should be treated as allrounders
(Smiles again) There’s certainly a case because both contribute in more than one department. If a couple of stumpings or catches — or even a run out — make the difference, those authoring that deserve to be treated at par with the more accepted allrounders. If you ask me, I consider Jonty an allrounder. Even Gilchrist or a Mark Boucher.
Finally, on having worn so many caps with distinction
It’s been interesting… A lot of South African cricketers keep regretting that they matured in the wrong era, that they missed out on international cricket… Owing to the circumstances, even I could only play seven Tests but, today, I consider myself fortunate that I had a role in our period of transition… That I was around when Nelson Mandela took centrestage… Personally, then, I don’t have regrets. How do I view the present scenario (in South Africa)' Well, only the best should get to wear the South Africa cap…