Tribute to the retired hurt Mark Boucher

Saturday, 14 July 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Sulakshi Thelikorala

Cricket : dynamic, subtle and perplexing. Once a heartbeat and once a tear!Many faces walk inand out of the cricket but a few remain at heart.  Mark Boucher, the legendary South African wicketkeeper bid goodbye to cricket ending his fourteen years cricketing carrier in aforbidding manner,not befitting for someone of his status.

Mark Boucher is a cricketer with great sportsmanship, whohas added incredible character to the South African cricket over a decade and a half. This larger than life character,being a jack of all trade in the sport, displayed the spirit and marvel of cricket downright.  

Boucher recently captured the headlines due to his tragic premature retirement from cricket. His retirement follows a serious eye injury he suffered at Somerset, precluding the international cricket career under such untimely circumstances.

Nevertheless, he retires as the most successful wicketkeeper of all time with 998 dismissals in both ODI and test match cricket including a world record 555 dismissals in latter, leaving behind figures that are unlikely to be challenged over the years to come.

Mark Verdon Boucher was born on the 3rd of December, 1976 in Cape Town and was educated at the Selborne College, Eastern Cape, South Africa. His physique rarely supported him in looking like the typical worldclassathlete; nevertheless it assisted him immensely with flexibility and mobility as one of world’s finest glove men.

Boucher was known for his tenacity and attitude even at the fresh age of 20, when he was picked for the national squad,barely over 2 years after his first debut, onlyhaving played just 14 first-class matches.

Thus, his test carrier began in 1997, when he flew to Pakistan to replace Dave Richardson, the former South African wicketkeeper with a broken finger. He kept ticket for South Africa in his debut against Pakistan in the second of a three-test series at Sheikhupura on the 17th of October 1997.

The test debut was unremarkable in young Boucher’s carrier as the three days of the match were washed out by the heavy rains where Boucher fielded only 17 overs, scoring only six runs. His first ODI had better fortune against New Zealand in Perth, where he managed to grab two catches but rarely impressed the crowd with the bat.

Gradually did young Boucher went on to become one of the world’s best glove men as he managed to lay his first South African record. This was one year after his debut when he equaled his predecessor Dave Richardson’s record of 9 dismissals, including eight catches & one stumping against Pakistan in Durban. Thus, his performances on the field began to build his walls of respectability.

He has turned out to be one of the finest wicket keepers of all time, overcoming initial shortcomings. Being a fierce competitor, he was one wicket keeper; many never had the pleasure of playing against. Although not so spectacular, his moves behind the wicket are priceless. His peeps and tweets of enthusiasm behind the stumps was sometimes a blow on the face for the opponent.

Crouched behind the stumps Boucher had the best view of the house which he put together with his astute cricket knowledge to provide great advice for a Captain in distress. This made him the centre, the soul and the life of South African fielding power.

Boucher is known as “a man to go to war with but never against”. He was never up to lose a game, proud and dignified. It was all about winning for Boucher. The moments which left the team with insurmountable challenge, Boucher raised the voice and made a rally cry. Over a decade, he has been the heartbeat of the team, the sort of feisty, strong athletic player, any country would want in their team.

Even though batting was initially his Achilles heel, he proved himself coming of age as an all-rounder with three centuries along with his maiden century against West Indies at Centurion in the second year of his international cricketing life. Boucher is undoubtedly a genius all-rounder. He might not be a Mahendra Singh Dhoni or an Adam Gilchrist destructive with the bat. Nevertheless, anup-to-date cricket fan can assure if South Africa is 150 for 5 wickets, their middle order is still as strong as the top with Boucher head up high. Upon his retirement he has remarkable batting statistics with 295 ODIs played scoring 4686 and 147 test matches scoring 5515 test runs at an average of 30.3.

Records have been Boucher’s ally. In his second Test, he starred in a record 195-run ninth wicket partnership with the renowned cricketer Pat Symcoxagainst Pakistan at the Wanderers rescuing South Africa from 166 to 8 into a decent draw. This was the moment in Boucher’s carrier which brought out his free spirit and his perseverance defining him as an international cricketer. He holds several other records such as South African record for the fastest ODI century, the sixth wicket test match South African record partnership with Ashwell Prince and the ninth batsman to score 3000 runs for South Africa.

The statistics of his career speak for themselves. Boucher completed a world-record 555 dismissals in 147 tests while he ended his career with total of 998 dismissals behind the stumps in international cricket with one outfield catch and one test wicket, against the West Indies in 2005, giving him a total of 1 000 dismissals in all international cricket.

Spanning over a period of fourteen years, Mark Boucher has played for Proteas, the South African National Cricket Team as the wicketkeeper and a right-handed batsman, very rarely extending his role as a right-arm medium bowler. His great sportsmanship was also displayed at various other occasions with his participation in the teams Africa XI, Border, Cape Cobras, ICC World XI, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

He had faced a mild step down over the recent past leaving him mounted with pressure. The moments with the bat has been unfair and mistakes he usually doesn’t make behind stumps had engulfed Boucher with negative sentiment. Nevertheless, being himself relentlessly competitive and aggressive, he strived hard to make a good come back.

Boucher faced a severe eye injury on the 9th of July 2012 during day one of the Proteas’ tour match against English County Somerset at Taunton. Agoogleyfrom ImranTahir bowled GemaalHussain whenan errant bail hit Boucher right in the left eye who was standing up to the stumps, wearing a cap instead of a helmet. The 35-year-old cricketer had to undergo three hours of surgery on for eye laceration of the left eye. Thus, the severity of eye injury has compelled Boucher to retire form cricket pre maturely.

Boucher was not far from the land mark of 150 Test matches when his retirement plan was taken out of his hands by the tragic incident.  Prior to the incident, he has stated his will to retire at the third test of the series at Lord’s which was to mark his 150th Test.

Mark Boucher has played a huge role in the South African game of cricket with grit, determination and heart. He has balanced the side serenely, fought hard at crucial times valiantly and raised the spirit of the team over the years as the iron man of Proteas. Boucher is one of world’s best ever finishes of cricket and a true inspiration in the trenches. He is a good role model and a true fighting spirit.

His prolific international record is the proof of his spectacular 15 years of a remarkable display of longevity. It is an obvious factor that his records will rarely be broken in the near future. Boucher has been a mainstay of the South African cricket over the last decade and South African cricket together with the rest of the world will miss the magic of the veteran undoubtedly.

“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.” –     Graham Smith , Captain, South African Cricket.