Tuesday, 28 July 2015
Think through a few supposed all round talents in the modern game and the answer is probably no. Yet Clive Rice, who died today, was a giant of a cricketer in an age when they were not in short supply. A fair indicator of his standing in the game, and certainly at Nottinghamshire, where he starred for many seasons, was that it was unlikely they would have swapped him for any of them.
Following Garfield Sobers as overseas player was a thankless task, but Rice, admittedly with a better standard of team mate, did more than the great West Indian at Trent Bridge, which was some achievement. While Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and his Nottinghamshire team-mate, Richard Hadlee were regarded as the four great all rounders of the time, only Rice's lack of international cricket stopped him joining that quartet.
As a batsman he could graft or he could take the game away. 48 hundreds and 137 half centuries confirm his talent, together with another eleven tons in the one-day game. Those runs came at an average in excess of forty, while his 930 wickets came at a cost of just 22. There were a further 517 in the one-day game too, as Rice became a man for all occasions and cricket formats. He was county skippers from 1979 to 1987, leading them to trophies and being a skipper in the Eddie Barlow mode - setting the tone, getting on the front foot and keeping his team on top by personal deeds and force of personality.
By the time South Africa was readmitted to the international fold he was 42 and past his best. He only got three one-day games, but plenty of fine players before him got less. I read of his ill-health only recently and it came as a shock to hear of his passing today.
Nottinghamshire were and are our rivals, but they have perhaps never been better than when Rice and Hadlee took the new ball on helpful tracks. Watching them mark out their run ups made you fear the worst. Watching them walk to the wicket was exactly the same and they rarely let the side down. Both were scrappers, fierce competitors who got the best from helpful bowling conditions, then somehow scored runs when the opposition fancied them too.
Clive Rice was a giant of the game. I mourn his passing and will remember him as one of the best players I have seen.
Rest in peace, Clive.