WELLINGTON: New Zealand legend Richard Hadlee paid a moving tribute to former Nottinghamshire team mate Clive Rice on Wednesday, describing the South African as one of the greatest cricketers never to have played a Test match.
Hadlee said it was sad that Rice, who died of cancer on Tuesday aged 66, never had the chance to play Test cricket because South Africa's apartheid ban coincided with his prime playing years.
"Whether it be Test cricket, whether it be one-day cricket, I can sit here and comfortably say that he would have competed with the best," Hadlee told Radio Sport.
Hadlee and Rice played together at English county Nottinghamshire for 10 years from 1978, forming a formidable all-round partnership that helped claim two County Championships in 1981 and 1987.
"He was a tough, uncompromising captain. He led by example and demanded players lift their performances to win matches and championships," Hadlee said.
In an era when many of the world's best players were involved in county cricket, Hadlee said Rice's talents shone through because he had a point to prove over the Test ban.
"He tended to measure himself against quality opposition in county cricket, particularly the international Test players who were playing as overseas players," the New Zealander said.
"The likes of Joel Garner, Imran Khan, Wayne Daniel, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding.
"When he batted he didn't want to get out to them. They were wonderful bowlers but he wanted to score runs against them and dominate them.
"I can tell you here and now he was a high-class player... he was magnificent."
Rice did eventually play international cricket, becoming South Africa's first post-apartheid captain in November 1991 after the ban was lifted and the Proteas played three one-dayers in India.
But he never played Test cricket, which Hadlee said was a loss not just for Rice but for the game itself.