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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Turning back the clock
Clive Rice
Rice takes time to reflect in India in 1991
by BBC Sport Online's Oliver Brett

Clive Rice must surely have wondered if he would ever play officially-recognised international cricket.

Success as a South African skipper in the 1980s had come, but only when his team hosted the rebel tours.

He had also turned Nottinghamshire into one of the strongest forces in county cricket.

But he was 42 when he had the chance to lead out an official South African team.

A hastily-arranged tour to India was on the agenda and Rice was the man who would be captain.

Now cricket manager at Trent Bridge, Rice recalls: "The squad for that tour was all put together in a week.

Mike Gatting led a rebel tour to SA in 1991
Mike Gatting led a rebel tour to SA in 1991
"We were busy playing a game of league cricket and the next thing we knew one of the selectors said: 'We have been told by Ali Bacher to pick a team to go to India next week'.

"So the team was assembled. Actually the chairman of selectors didn't agree with the tour taking place.

"But we had the World Cup coming up a couple of months later."

The squad was built on the side who had played against Mike Gatting's rebels.

It was a mixture of young and old, and Rice also took along a youthful Hansie Cronje, as he says "just to learn".

The tour was an experience for Rice.

"Suddenly we were going into an environment in Calcutta with 100,000 people in the stadium - an environment completely alien to anything we had experienced.

Allan Donald
Donald is vital to South Africa
"It was a rude awakening - and also the whole immenseness in terms of getting back into international cricket.

"The following worldwide was immense too. At the opening press conference in Calcutta there were 250 journalists from around the world."

Of the 11 South Africans who took the field at Eden Gardens, only Kepler Wessels, who had represented Australia, had any experience of officially-sanctioned international cricket.

And though South Africa lost the three-match series 2-1, Rice remembers being proud of his team's performance.

"I was very satisfied because the pitch they prepared in Calcutta looked like one of those pits that had dried out.

"We had never played on something like that ever before."

He added: "When you have so many new players you have to understand how they think.

"So it was very much a tour that was to get us back into international cricket so we were finally accepted by the rest of the world.

It might be quite interesting to see whether Harbhajan can get the same response on our pitches
Clive Rice
"And I think we achieved that."

Looking ahead to the upcoming Tests, Rice said the fitness of Allan Donald could be critical.

Donald is the only survivor of that 1991 one-dayer in Calcutta, and Rice reckons, depending on fitness, he may be used as a first change bowler against India this time round.

"His experience is immense, and when you are playing against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar you can't have a clown bowling at him because he'll murder you.

"When you have Donald firing he's a formidable bowler but he's getting on in his career - it might even be his last series."

Much has been made of the pressure on Sourav Ganguly - both to resurrect his own form with the bat and correct a poor away Test record as skipper.

But Rice warns: "In the subcontinent any captain is walking on thin ice. In that part of the world, to find a captain that everyone's happy with is impossible."

Justin Kemp
Kemp could get his chance ahead of Klusener
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh burst onto the scene by virtually winning India's home Test series against Australia.

And whereas Rice describes the other Indian spinner Anil Kumble as a "known" quantity, he is keen to see more of Harbhajan.

"It might be quite interesting to see whether Harbhajan can get the same response on our pitches. If he's going to be good he's going to have to bowl well on our pitches."

Of South Africa's players, Rice feels it may be time for Justin Kemp to assume the all-rounder's mantle that Lance Klusener is struggling to cling onto.

And he believes Neil McKenzie - who is already consolidating his position in the middle order - has a good chance to score heavily.

Although Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs are in top form at present, McKenzie's runs may be needed too - with Daryll Cullinan suffering from a debilitating knee injury.

See also:

26 Sep 01 |  Cricket
India battle to beat the bounce
24 Sep 01 |  Cricket
India players set to return
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