I've no regrets - Rice
By ALVIN SALLAY
IF any sportsman was badly affected by South Africa's long exile from the world's sporting arenas, then that person was Clive Rice.
The great all-rounder remembers only too well the occasion he was picked to represent his country for the first time, for the 1971-72 tour of Australia.
''I was a 20-year-old kid then, and I was excited at the prospect of winning my first cap,'' he said. ''But then the tour was called off.'' That was the beginning of the South Africa's apartheid-related ban, an exile which lasted for two decades and was only lifted last year. Twenty-plus years passed by - the best years of Rice's career.
But the 44-year-old former Nottinghamshire star does not have any regrets. ''It was hard that isolation period. But then again it is like wishing that I could have played at Wimbledon or driven at the British Grand Prix . . . I just wasn't able to do it and I have no regrets about it.
''I was still fortunate to play against the best players in the world,'' added Rice.
Rice still plays competitive first-class cricket for Natal, and takes a keen interest, albeit from a distance, in the fortunes of the national side.
He dismisses suggestions that South Africa will become a potent force soon on the world cricketing scene.
''We don't have a Graeme Pollock, a Barry Richards, an Eddie Barlow or a Mike Proctor now. They were geniuses. For us to become world beaters, we need batsmen of their calibre and I can't see anyone in the current side who possesses that flair.
''What we have is a superb fielding team and a good bowling side.'' A player of immense natural talent, Rice has been quick to adapt to the sixes game. ''The rest of the guys will just have to learn as we go along, but I'm sure we will do well.'' The spur, said Rice, would be to prove the Springbok selectors wrong. ''Guys like Peter Kirsten and Adrian Kuiper should have been in the side to tour Sri Lanka and also the side which will go to Australia later this year. I'm sure a good performance herewill make the selectors sit up and take notice.'' ''A good performance like winning the tournament,'' he added.
No stranger to the territory, Rice failed to maintain his dominance of the single-wicket competition, which he had won in 1984 and 1985 in England, when he lost out to Pakistan all-rounder Imran Khan in Hong Kong in 1986.
The following year, however, he regained it.
Small consolation for a player who could have had a great Test career.