11 July 2012
South Africa’s record-setting wicketkeeper Mark Boucher announced his retirement from international cricket on Tuesday after suffering a career-ending eye injury in the opening match of the Proteas’ tour of England against Somerset.
Boucher was standing up to leg-spinner Imran Tahir when Tahir bowled Germaal Hussein with a googly. In a freak accident, a bail flew off the stumps and hit Boucher in the left eye. He immediately fell to the ground and was surrounded by his team-mates, all thoughts of celebrating the wicket forgotten.
A two-and-a-half hour surgery followed for the veteran Protea, during which it was established that the damage was severe.
Boucher had said he wished to retire after the England series, but after being forced out of the tour he announced his retirement.
He released a statement, which read: “It is with sadness, and in some pain, that I make this announcement. Due to the severity of my eye injury, I will not be able to play International cricket again.
“I had prepared for this UK tour as well, if not better than I have prepared for any tour in my career,” Boucher’s statement read. “I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now, but circumstances have dictated differently.
“I have a number of thank yous to make to people who have made significant contributions during my International career, which I will do in due course.
“For now, I would like to thank the huge number of people, many of whom are strangers, for their heartfelt support during the past 24 hours. I am deeply touched by all the well wishes. I wish the team well in the UK, as I head home and onto a road of uncertain recovery.”
South African captain Graeme Smith, who read the statement on behalf of Boucher, said in response: “Bouch, we have walked a long road together, and we are saddened to part under these circumstances.
“For the 14 years of your International career, you have been a true Proteas’ warrior, a patriotic South African, a fighter who asks nothing and gives everything. You have been a 100 percenter for this team.
“You have been more than a performer, you have been a motivator, an inspirer, an energizer … and a good friend to many,” Smith said.
“You leave us today with sad hearts, but also with a deep gratitude for your contributions to our team, and to us as people.
“The fighting spirit you brought to the team remains with us. We wish you a good as possible recovery from your injury. As we bid you a farewell as an international cricketer and wish you well for your future, we keep you as a friend and respected Proteas’ warrior.”
Mark Boucher’s international career began in October 1997 in the second test against Pakistan, when current Proteas’ coach Gary Kirsten was still opening the batting for South Africa.
He went on to play in 147 test matches, which at the time of his retirement was seventh on the all-time list, and just five games less than the South African record holder, Jacques Kallis, his closest friend. He also took part in 295 one-day internationals and 25 Twenty20 internationals.
He was responsible for exactly 1 000 dismissals in those games, with all but two of them being achieved as wicketkeeper. He added a catch as a fielder and claimed a wicket as a bowler.
His 555 test dismissals is a massive 139 more than the number two man on the list, Adam Gilchrist. Another way to put his achievement into perspective is that his total of 555 is more than double the number of dismissals made by the man in fifth place all time, Jeff Dujon, who tallied 270 in his career.
He is number two all-time on the lists of dismissals in one-day international cricket, with 424 to his name.
As a batsmen, he scored 5 515 runs in tests, including five centuries and 35 fifties.
He also bowled eight balls in test cricket and took a wicket, dismissing Dwayne Bravo for 107 in the drawn fourth test against the West Indies at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
Numbers, however, vastly underplay the role and influence Boucher had on the Proteas. He was renowned for his tough-as-teak, never-say-die temperament and for being a leader in the South African team. He earned the respect of his team-mates and South Africa’s opposition.
“I don’t think you can replace Mark Boucher. That’s not what we’re trying to do,” Graeme Smith told ESPN Cricinfo.
“We’re trying to respect what he’s given us and hopefully play with him in our hearts and minds through the next few years.
“He’s created a legacy for a lot of us to be a part of and to look up to. We need to respect what he’s done for our country and be proud of that.”
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