27 September 1998

Cricket hero in top form despite tumour on brain

Rodney Hartman, Sports Editor

Clive Rice, one of South Africa's best-loved sports personalities, has learnt he has a large tumour on his brain and has decided to travel to Germany to undergo major surgery to have it removed. The 49-year-old father of two will be operated on in Hanover by a top German neurosurgeon.

In the meantime, the straight-talking former South African cricket captain and national selector continues to do the things he enjoys most - like motor racing. Yesterday, as positive and confident as ever, he was in action at Kyalami in the VW Polo Cup series. He said: "This [tumour] thing affects my hearing but in motor racing that's a bit of a bonus!"

The man once acknowledged as the world's greatest all-round cricketer - in the days when he captained Nottinghamshire to the English County Championship title and the legendary Transvaal "Mean Machine" to a succession of Currie Cup triumphs - spoke frankly about his illness. "It's called an acoustic neuroma and it's about 4cm long. The good news is that it's benign, although it is going to cost me my hearing in my left ear. I'll blame that on Susan [his wife], who has been yelling in my ear for a long time. Also, one good thing about this is that I'll be able to choose what I hear in future!"

It was through encroaching deafness that Rice first sought medical advice - only to be told that it was probably nothing worse than a middle-ear infection. "It's been going on for about a year," said Rice, "and when my hearing problem got worse I went back for an MIR scan. It howed the tumour and, yes, that there is a brain there after all!"

Rice, who also runs the National Cricket Academy - where the best young players in the country are groomed for higher honours - has been busy in spite of his illness. In the past three months he has visited England, where he watched the SA team in action in the Test match on his old home ground of Trent Bridge in Nottingham. And he recently took an Academy team on a tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya. Now he has to think about other priorities. "There's no question that the tumour has got to come out, but they'd better do it soon because I've got my seats booked for the West Indies Test in Durban on December 26, and I'm not going to miss that for anything in the world."

Rice, who played provincial cricket well into his 40s,is awaiting word from Hanover about the proposed date for his operation. "It all depends on when they can slot me in." It was on the advice of South African cricket chief Ali Bacher, himself a doctor, that Rice made contact with German health experts. "Ali told me that some things were negotiable - but in this case he was not prepared to negotiate with me. He insisted that I go to Hanover because that was where I would get the best treatment in the world. I was planning on having the operation done in South Africa but I took Ali's advice."

Rice said he expected to be "out of action" for about two months after the operation. "I believe my balance will be gone and I'll be a bit messed up - [but] right now I just want to get it over and done with."

Source:: Sunday Times