How disappointing it would be for a player who was closing in on 150 Test appearances for his country and required just one dismissal to reach the record 1000 international dismissals to leave the game just before what could have been the biggest assignment of his 14-year career? Mark Boucher, the 35-year-old South African, has hung up his gloves on Tuesday after sustaining a freak eye injury in a warm-up game in England.
England tour was the one that Boucher wanted to be a part of desperately as South Africa could possibly dethrone England as the World No. 1 Test side if they are able to clinch the upcoming three-match series. But a three-hour surgery – following the injury on Monday – put paid to his hopes. And no wonder the veteran batsman is extremely disappointed of cutting short his career unexpectedly.
"I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now, but circumstances have dictated differently," Boucher said in a statement after announcing his retirement. He also wished his side good luck in England before flying back home. "I am deeply touched by all the wishes. I wish the team well in the UK, as I head home and onto a road of uncertain recovery."
Boucher, who represented South Africa in 147 Tests and 295 one-day internationals after making his debut for the Proteas at 20, was one such character who never shied away from getting under the opposition’s skin. His record number of Test dismissals – 555, over 100 more than Australia's Adam Gilchrist – is testament to the fact that he was unparallel in his skills behind the wickets. He is also second to Gilchrist on the list of career dismissals in ODIs.
Boucher was a typical South African – competitive, aggressive and someone who would not give the opposition an inch. He had never been a big-innings player, but someone who would score a quick 30 or 50 and take his side home. Among many such knocks, the 43-ball 50 he scored in the record chase in a one-day international against Australia in Johannesburg in 2006 is the one which would have etched in every cricket fan’s memory.
Boucher will be dearly missed by his team-mates in their assignment in England, and like many of his fans back in South Africa and around the world, they would be feeling the absence of the 35-year-old the most in the time to come.
"Bouch, we have walked a long road together, and we are saddened to part under these circumstances," South African Test captain Graeme Smith said after Boucher announced his retirement. "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 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."
Though Boucher had to leave his journey as an international cricketer prematurely, he is already an icon and role model for all those budding players who want to make it big.