Taunton: Mark Boucher of South Africa was forced to retire from international cricket because of an eye injury on Tuesday, suddenly ending the career of the most successful wicketkeeper in Tests.
Boucher, who holds the world record for Test dismissals, said that "with sadness and in some pain" he had to give up international cricket because of the eye injury he sustained in a tour game against Somerset on Monday.
Boucher suffered a ruptured left eyeball when he was struck by a bail while keeping. He underwent surgery for nearly three hours to repair the injury, but the long-term damage is still unclear.
In a statement read out by South Africa captain Graeme Smith at Somerset's County Ground in Taunton, Boucher said that due to the severity of the injury he wouldn't be able to play Test cricket again.
"I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now, but circumstances have dictated differently," Boucher said. "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."
Boucher, who no longer plays international limited-overs cricket, would have reached 150 Test appearances in the three-match series against England that was also expected to be his farewell tour.
He was hurt when struck by a bail while standing up to the stumps to legspinner Imran Tahir on Monday, South Africa's first day of action on tour.
Boucher will return home as soon as he is well enough. "The extent of his eye injury has been described to have been severe," team manager Mohammed Moosajee said. "Although the eyeball has been repaired the long-term prognosis currently remains unknown."
Smith has played his entire Test career alongside the long-serving Boucher and he paid tribute to the wicketkeeper, who had a reputation as a gutsy and ultra-competitive player.
"Bouch, we have walked a long road together, and we are saddened to part under these circumstances," Smith said. "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."
Boucher played 147 Tests and 295 one-day internationals after making his debut for the Proteas at 20. He holds the record for the number of Test dismissals at 555 – over 100 more than Australia's Adam Gilchrist.
The closest challenger to his record still playing is India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with 220 dismissals.
Boucher is also second to Gilchrist on the list of career dismissals in ODIs. Boucher had been expected to retire after the No. 2-ranked South Africa's series against top-ranked England or the tour of Australia later this year.
"He wanted to finish here. He's been talking about maybe going, if needed, to Australia but he wanted to go out on a real high in England," said Allan Donald, Boucher's former team-mate and South Africa's bowling coach. "I can't think of a bigger kick in the teeth than that."
Cricket South Africa says a tribute will be held for Boucher on Wednesday in Cape Town.