'I got more wickets through swing than bowling quick'

Mike Procter talks about being an allrounder, WSC, and dealing with The Oval forfeiture and Monkeygate controversies as a match referee

Interview by Crispin Andrews  |  

"There had been talk of South Africa being readmitted. We would go to India. It was all set up in about ten days. I was asked to be the coach" © Getty Images

Gloucestershire were playing Hampshire in the 1977 Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final. I went round the wicket, and suddenly it started swinging. I bowled [Gordon] Greenidge first ball of the over, and the Gloucestershire fans got right behind me. Next ball, David Turner got a single, then I had Barry Richards lbw - he didn't think it was out. Trevor Jesty was lbw the next ball, and then on the hat-trick ball, I bowled John Rice with a yorker.

Jacques Kallis was a tremendous allrounder, but Garry Sobers was the best. Sobers had three strings to his bow - he could bowl spin as well. I realised that it was useful to be able to bowl a bit of spin. Sobers was a match-winner. He won games with the bat and ball and he was a magnificent fielder. The thing about Kallis, like Sachin Tendulkar, was his longevity. He did so well for so long.

I bowled a lot of spin during the second year of WSC. My knee was playing up.

I still think the rebel tours to South Africa were a good thing. The South African administrators, back then, did the right thing organising those tours. South Africans were uneducated as far as Test cricket was concerned. We hadn't seen Test cricket for over ten years.

Vernon Philander had a fantastic start to his Test career, but no one can keep up that level of performance forever. He hasn't suddenly started bowling badly. His attributes are consistency, line and length, and he moves it around. That's usually enough to get you wickets at the top level.

The South African team in the mid-'70s would have given a good account of itself against the mid-'70s West Indies team.

After the Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds alleged racist-abuse incident, the ICC decided that a Level 2 abuse case should be heard by a higher authority than a match referee.

"I tried to get Pakistan to play at The Oval in 2006. They refused to come back out after tea. That was the lowest point of my career. I couldn't believe that a Test match could be abandoned"

I think it's sad that one of the greatest players, ever, for England, Kevin Pietersen, no longer plays for them, due to non-cricketing reasons.

I got more wickets through swinging the ball than bowling quick. Particularly from round the wicket. I had an unorthodox action. When I bowled round the wicket it was similar to a left-armer bowling over the wicket and swinging it in. Batters were vulnerable to lbws.

Graeme Smith is a real gutsy guy, who led from the front, the sort you'd want in the trenches with you. Most in South Africa will tell you the same thing. As a batsman Smith had fantastic hand-eye coordination. He was never the prettiest to watch but he was effective. I couldn't understand why more bowlers didn't try and tuck him up on his legs with a packed leg-side field, though. He was strong off his legs, but give him space outside off and he'd whip you through the leg side all day. In at his legs and he'd not have been able to free his arms up as easily.

If AB de Villiers is going to be South Africa's Test captain, I'd give the gloves to Quinton de Kock. AB enjoys fielding as much as keeping wicket. Batting, keeping and captaining will be difficult over five days.

Worldwide in the 1970s, there were lots of international bowling allrounders. Now, who are they?

"I enjoyed commentating more than coaching and refereeing" © PA Photos

After Pakistan refused to play at The Oval in 2006, the ICC changed the rules. Now, the match referee has to agree before the umpires can call a match off.

When I got my best ever bowling figures, 9 for 71, I bowled mainly spin.

There had been talk of South Africa being readmitted to international cricket, but we thought it was too short notice for the 1992 World Cup. Then the announcement came. We would go to India for some one-day internationals, and then to the World Cup. It was all set up in about ten days. I was asked to be the coach.

The quicker you bowl and the more you swing it, the better off you are. But if you haven't got control, then neither are of much use.

In the first year of World Series Cricket, we weren't allowed to practise on the main grounds in Australia. Kerry Packer had to hire other practice facilities. We had to make it work because it was such a huge thing Kerry Packer had done.

It's disappointing that South Africa are so low in the Test rankings. But you go through phases where you don't play Test matches, and then you play a lot, so it's not as bad as it looks. Once South Africa have finished their home series and then the Tests in Australia, it'll give a truer reflection.

The early- to mid-'70s South African side would have been better than the 1970 side. You still had all the players from the original side and also Denys Hobson, a magnificent legspinner, coming through. Also, Vince van der Bijl and Clive Rice.

The quicker I ran in the more pace I generated. I bowled with a whirlwind arm action, didn't use my body so much and get sideways on like most fast bowlers. I needed a long run.

"I always felt more pressure batting than bowling. As a bowler you could never really get out of form"

I tried to get Pakistan to play at The Oval in 2006. They refused to come back out after tea. I talked to the Pakistan manager, Zaheer Abbas, and Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, both good friends of mine. But the umpires decided that by not coming out, Pakistan had forfeited the game. That was the lowest point of my career. I couldn't believe that a Test match could be abandoned.

I played against a lot of the West Indies players in county cricket and during World Series Cricket with the World XI. You had to somehow try and get on top of them. Which was, of course, very difficult. But if you could build up some pressure then they'd be like any other side. The WSC Rest of the World side managed that in one of the Super Tests and beat West Indies by an innings.

There's no major problem with the South African team. Spin bowling has always been a bit of a worry, but that's no different to what it has been. They've got a good seam attack and good batters. They'll be okay.

If you've got a wicketkeeper who can bat and an allrounder who can bowl, that's a double whammy.

As a captain I tried to involve everybody, get people to think that they were part of the team.

I was never one to worry about averages. If I did well and we didn't win the game, it didn't mean a hell of a lot to me.

The Currie Cup was tough competition. In the 1970s and '80s we didn't play international cricket, so everyone really went for it that little bit more.

When batting you only needed to get one good ball or make one mistake. You only have one chance. Bowling, you could send down a couple of half-volleys and then knock someone over next ball.

When a few top players retire together there's always a slump before the new players come in and make their mark. It happened when Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher retired. It will again, most probably, when Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers go.

England have had a few English-born players who liked a word and had an opinion or two. Beefy [Ian Botham] and [Ray] Illingworth for a start.

"The quicker I ran in, the more pace I generated" © Getty Images

I tried to lead from the front, set the example.

I always admired Mike Brearley as a captain, and I later found out that he had me down as one of his favourite captains, which was nice. Brearley was so thoughtful as a captain, meticulous in what he did. He could bring out strengths in people. Look at Ian Botham during the 1981 Ashes. That was in part down to Mike Brearley's captaincy.

During World Series Cricket there was great camaraderie amongst all the players. On the field it was hard. Off the field it was fun.

There wasn't much difference in standard between Currie Cup cricket and county cricket in the 1970s. Currie Cup was probably a bit more intense because there were fewer games. But county sides had great overseas players - Viv Richards, Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts. Every county had one or two top international players, which we didn't have in South Africa.

I always felt more pressure batting than bowling. As a bowler you could never really get out of form. Sometimes you'd swing it more and other times you wouldn't and take wickets. But as a bowler you were in charge of your own destiny more so than when you batted. If you bowled one outside leg and hit the top of off stump you'd get anyone in the world out.

"Mike Gatting's rebel tour was probably the best of the lot. That's because it was the worst of the lot and it had to be abandoned. That tour resulted in us getting unity a lot quicker"

Viv Richards was always hard to bowl at. He could slaughter you if you got it wrong. Guys like Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Sobers were the guys who really stood out. Bowling at these guys, you had to make sure you didn't give them too much width, overpitch it, or bowl too short. You'd just try and contain the guy, get on top of him rather than him get on top of you.

During World Series Cricket, Garth le Roux bowled as quickly as anyone in the world.

I didn't particularly enjoy bowling off a short run in John Player League games. You couldn't get the same speed, but it was the same for everybody. It didn't make much difference to me, to be honest.

The last rebel tour, Mike Gatting's tour, was probably the best of the lot. That's because it was the worst of the lot and the tour had to be abandoned. Everything came to a head and soon after that, South African cricket administrators got together. That tour resulted in us getting unity a lot quicker.

I enjoyed commentating more than coaching and refereeing. I liked reading the game, seeing what was taking place and airing what I thought. I'm sorry that I never had the opportunity to get back into it.

At the end of that nail-biting South Africa-Australia semi-final at the 1999 World Cup, Bill Lawry was shouting, I was shouting. We were both standing up in the commentary box. We couldn't sit down as it was so exciting. I should have said something dramatic at the end, when Allan Donald was run out and Australia won, but I couldn't, I was speechless. The late Tony Greig said to me that it was one of the best pieces of commentary he'd heard.

Schools cricket in South Africa is exceptionally strong and pretty well organised. In Australia and England most junior cricket is run through clubs.

I've got no idea why South Africa has produced so many allrounders. Why didn't Australia have any? When I was a kid you just wanted to bat, bowl fast, spin, field, keep wicket. You wanted to do everything. No one ever told me to just concentrate on one thing. I have no idea why South Africa don't have so many allrounders now, either.