Former international cricketer Clive Rice, who now runs a successful telecommunications business, admits to me when I meet him at his home in Linksfield, Johannesburg for this profile interview that he’s lost a great deal of interest in the sport that once dominated his life.
The former all-rounder, who captained Nottinghamshire to victory twice to the English County Championship title, and who captained the Springboks during a series of unofficial Test matches to SA during the apartheid era, concedes match-fixing in the sport has made him wary of the game.
Today, he says, he’d rather spend his time playing golf or watching rugby.
Rice, 61, whose professional cricket career ran from 1973 to 1994, started a fax-to-e-mail company about 10 years ago and he is now an active player in the telecoms field through his business, Clive Rice & Associates.
He says he realised that when his career as a pro cricketer ended, he wanted to get involved in a business that would generate annuity income. “That appeals to me more than anything, because it means I can play golf or go to the Kruger Park, and at the end of the day I’ve generated a whole lot of income.”
His company has since expanded to providing a wide range of telecoms products, including discounted voice calls. He recently secured a deal to provide cheap mobile calls for businessmen who are travelling abroad, helping them to reduce high international roaming charges.
Rice, settled into a large leather couch in his home office with one of his dogs — a well-behaved Alsatian — at this side, tells me he first became interested in telecoms in the mid-1990s while helping local radio stations manage competitions that required listeners to fax through entries. That quickly blossomed into a fast-growing fax-to-e-mail business.
“The telecoms landscape has changed dramatically in that time,” Rice says, as another of his dogs, a precocious Border Collie, drops a tennis ball at his feet expectantly.
As he throws the ball through his office window — and the dog runs out of the house to look for it — I steer the conversation back to Rice’s cricket career and ask him if he keeps ties with the cricketing world and his former team mates. “With all of this other stuff going on, no, I don’t have time to think about coaching or anything like that. My spare time is spent on the golf course, not the cricket field,” he says, smiling through his trademark moustache.
He concedes he watched little of the recent World Cup and Indian Premier League (IPL) matches. “There’s such as oversupply of cricket. It’s overkill. I’d rather watch a rugby game.”
He says he is “very concerned” about match-fixing in the sport, especially the potential for abuse during the IPL games. “I’m concerned about the possibility of bookmakers being involved,” he says. “No one trusts the game anymore.”
It’s clearly something Rice feels passionately about. He says the International Cricket Council (ICC), the cricket governing body, isn’t doing nearly enough to root out corruption in the sport. The council has to be “much more proactive in trapping the players and, then, if they are trapped, the country concerned must pay the price”.
“As it stands now, if someone gets caught, it doesn’t really matter,” he says, as the Border Collie returns excitedly with the tennis ball. “The country concerned has to be banned and the ICC has to take serious steps about it. The ICC can’t have only the newspapers being proactive; they have to be proactive themselves. [Match-fixing] is clearly going on. Is there a cover-up?” He pauses, looking grave.
Did match-fixing happen when Rice was playing pro cricket or is it a recent phenomenon? “It was probably going on, but it never occurred to me that that was the case,” he offers, before providing me with more details — off the record, he insists — about corruption in the local game.
When the conversation goes on the record again, I ask Rice what he considers the highlights of his career. Being picked to play for the Springboks to tour Australia in 1970, he says immediately. “I literally couldn’t speak after that selection. It was a dream come true.” The tour was later cancelled, however.
Playing in Kerry Packer’s controversial World Series Cricket, a breakaway professional cricket competition, in the late 1970s was also a real highlight, he says, as was playing county cricket in England and captaining winning sides.
“Then, of course, when captaining the Mean Machine (Transvaal), we had so many highlights in drilling the opposition around SA. And we had the ‘Humdinger match’ in February 1987, where we beat the Aussies. They needed 18 runs off 19 balls and we needed eight wickets. We got the eight wickets and beat them. That was an unbelievable game of cricket.”
Tossing the collie’s ball out the window again, Rice says another key highlight was playing in front of 100 000 cricket-mad spectators in Calcutta, India, after SA was readmitted into international cricket. “You actually pinch yourself and ask: ‘Is this really what’s happening to me?’ After all the years of playing, you’re now going to play international cricket under the official logo.”
Born in Johannesburg, Rice went to school at St John’s College, before enrolling for a BCom degree at the University of Natal. He dropped out after a year to join the family electroplating and seat-manufacturing business in Boksburg, before being approached to play professional cricket in England.
He thought he’d only stay for one season, but eventually played for 13 years for Nottinghamshire. “I was in SA for six months of the year and England for six months, and I just ended up playing cricket 12 months a year,” he says, chuckling.
Married to wife Susan, Rice has two children. He has two brothers. One, Richard, runs a chemicals business; the other, John, heads up a street-lighting company called Envirolight, in which Rice has a significant equity stake. He also chairs the company’s board of directors and is working with Kapil Dev, the former Indian cricket captain, to introduce the company’s patented technology to the vast Indian market. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral