The passing of Clive Edward Butler Rice has seen many thousands of people express their shock and sadness. From housewives to businessmen, CEOs, former cricketers and the ordinary man in the street. I believe it speaks to the man himself – Clive was able to touch so many people.
Even to the end, he was prepared to visit India in order to try something to beat the dreaded illness. His courage and determination has offered hope to many people, which is something I’m convinced he would cherish. I spoke to him on Saturday evening, just two days before his passing, and even then he remained positive and was up for the fight. He even joked about taking some cash of me at golf sometime. Nothing got the former captain down for too long.
He adored his family and understood that his wife Sue and two children were his anchor throughout his career. Imagine the number of times he packed at home to play a game somewhere. In those days, the money wasn’t thrown around. It demanded total commitment.
Ricey was the ultimate professional in his time. Tenacious, gutsy, tough, uncompromising, competitive and driven, are a few words I have heard used when describing his playing career.
He gave no quarter and asked for none when he crossed the ropes. Winning was the only goal, and finishing second meant you were last in his book. Who will ever forget that walk back to end of his run-up, as he rolled up the sleeve of his right arm and turned at the top of his mark to pound in again. No frills and no fuss about anything he did, just single-mindedness in getting his opponent out as quickly as possible. Not one for many words, he just ran in and let it go.
In 1981, Nottinghamshire won the County Championship for the first time in 60 years, and the captain who made it possible by leading from the front was Clive. They still remember it today.
Cricket records are forever and they never lie. Clive’s record out in the middle with bat and ball stack up with the best not only in his era, but even compared to those today. They paint a picture that clearly shows he was a helluva player. The fact that he never got to play more international cricket was not only unfortunate, as it robbed the game of something special, but also because he wasn’t able to actually experience that deep inner-peace of completing something he dearly loved. However, he moved along with his life and filled it in many other ways by making huge contributions to the game itself, long after he ended his playing career.
Clive took on the role of overseeing the SA Academy with Hylton Ackerman when it first started. It was a wonderful initiative from Dr Ali Bacher, who had the foresight to recognize his value. Many players came through that system and admired Ricey as a result. Lance Klusener was one such graduate. All-rounders have a way of understanding each other, and Brian McMillan would have benefitted greatly from being under Clive’s wing in the Transvaal days.
It is particularly pleasing that CSA have allowed the Proteas to show respect to the late Clive by wearing black armbands during the Test currently underway in Bangladesh. Knowing Clive, he would have probably been surprised by the gesture given his spats from time to time with the organization. However, he would have been extremely proud. He was a cricket man to the hilt.
Some suggest Clive harboured bitterness towards the cricketing authorities and was opposed to transformation. That is so far from the truth. Ricey coached youngsters in many townships and at countless cricket gatherings. He was all for everyone getting a fair crack, but was never one in favour of compromising the winning way. It was something deep down inside his soul. At times, it placed him in conflicting views with authorities, but he was always man enough to stand his ground for what he believed in. I respected him greatly for that, as did many others.
The quiet man also possessed a sense of humour when it was called for and was forever being ragged about his racing. There was a time when he took it really seriously and we used to joke that the sponsor should place a logo under the car! He would casually smile at the suggestion.
In his last few seasons, he headed down to the Dolphins and, as his roommate, I was often dragged around to places at night where he was implementing karaoke. He actually pioneered the concept into South Africa. To be fair, he was an awful singer, but he often sang first and I would follow. “Let it be” was his song, and while he couldn’t do it justice, we had a lot of fun.
The men that played with and under Clive during the ‘mean-machine’ days will be devastated by his death. They formed a real brotherhood by pounding the rest of the country every year.
Anyone who holds cricket dear, no matter their political stance or otherwise, will know that deep down a great player has been taken from us too soon. Men like Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Mike Procter and the late Rice don’t come around too often. Those of us who were able to see the above gentlemen take to the field, and play against them, were truly blessed.
In time, I pray the memory of Clive Edward Butler Rice, who gave so much at his beloved ‘Bullring’, will be honoured with an area in his name. And for those who sit in the shadows and watch cricket in future to say, “Ah, Clive Rice…Now that was a man to ride the river with…”