I have to be honest here: I have heard of Mike Procter, but I know very little of him. So when his autobiography dropped from the Cricket Publishing heavens, I was more than happy to give it a read.
Procter takes us on a journey full circle, from his beginnings at Natal and back to his last competitive game also for Natal. In between, he has shown himself a player of distinction as an all rounder, a manager, a selector, a commentator, a pundit, a writer and a match referee.
What cannot be doubted, something I was unaware of before reading this book, is his importance to South African Cricket.
He managed the first touring side when they came out of the wilderness to India in 1991, South Africa’s triumphant first appearance in the Cricket World Cup in 1992 and the first home test match in twenty one years, when the West Indies were the visitors.
Amongst the expected stories, Procter gives his account of the suicide bombing in Karachi in 2002; the political upheavals that limited his own test career and the movement to unite South Africa; the incident between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds that ended his career as a Match Referee; the business dealings that left him practically penniless and; his involvement in Kerry Packer’s World Series in the 1970s.
There are two heartwarming chapters written by Mark Nicholas and John Saunders – Procter’s coach as a teenager. Both have no doubt about his talent and the legacy that he has left behind.
After reading this book, I have to say I fully agree with them.
Each chapter is informative and always interesting. No point is laboured or self-indulgent. What comes across is a man who is very talented, but also humble about his achievements.
There isn’t a negative comment about anyone that he has worked with or played with. In this respect, it is an honest book about a humble man who just happens to be good at, and in love with, cricket. As a bonus, particularly for those who are quite partial to stats, the appendices are worth a read.
What seems to be a constant thread throughout the book is that politics and sport do not mix. Some have argued that politics has stopped Procter (and many others) from having more of a successful international career. Procter himself, however, sees it like this:
“What is a test career compared to the suffering of forty million people?
“Lots of people have lost a lot more in those years and if, by missing out on a test career, we played a part in changing an unjust system then that’s fine by me”
That is Mike Procter.
Read this Book.
It’s a damn good book.
Title: Caught in the Middle: Monkeygate, Politics and Other Hairy Issues
Author: Mike Procter and Lungani Zama
Pitch Publishing 2017