A freak injury stops the counting at 999 dismissals for South African wicket keeper Mark Boucher as he parted away sadly from the international cricket on Tuesday.
Fifteen years of amazing behind the stumps career came to an abrupt end for Boucher earlier this week, due to an eye-injury he suffered when playing against Somerset in the warm-up match before the all important England test series starting on next week Thursday which will decide the No.1 spot in test cricket. Boucher was hurt while keeping to leg spinner Imran Tahir as the ball hit the bail, which then ricocheted into his eye. He subsequently undergone an operation after which he was ruled out of the series. Agony hit this superb flying keeper who had earlier announced that he will retire at the end of England test series in Lords where the third test will be played.
But at the end, there always exists a joy looking back at the path traveled. For Boucher, there exists plenty of joy except the ever trailing effort to win an world title. He had effected 998 dismissals: 952 catches and 46 stumping from behind the wickets as keeper, and held a catch when he was a fielder. He holds the record for most number of dismissals (998) by a wicket keeper at international level. He also holds record for the most number of dismissals at test matches (555) and most number of catches (532) held by a wicket-keeper at test cricket.
Mark Boucher was always been held at high for his great wicket keeping skills. He is the last of remaining classic wicket-keeper who can bat a bit rather modern keeper-batsmen. At the bouncy, swinging and windy pitches of South Africa, he was at best in holding onto the catches and more importantly receiving the ball perfectly at his gloves each time it arrives. His aerobic abilities made him to tackle his short height disadvantage.
As a batsmen, Boucher struggled compared to his keeping abilities averaging little more than 30 at test and 28 at ODI. But Mark will cherish the moments of hitting the winning runs at the famous chase of 434 runs against Australia and taking South Africa to series win with a gritty 45* against England at Edgbaston in 2008. He predominantly batted at No.7 or later at test matches and No.6 or later at limited over cricket. Even though his test contributions are limited to small yet valuable scores, his ODI contributions are more worthy since it came at brisk pace when it was required at fade end of the innings. His 147* from just 68 balls is absolute rocket launcher as he launched 10 sixes in that innings against Zimbabwe.
Boucher had lot more memorable and great days on the field but as an Indian watching him, i am always been awe-struck by his keeping abilities. I will rate him as the best keeper in the decade he played. He was one of those tricky customer when it comes to batting, because his style is such that, it will either see him score 30 runs in no time or make him wobble in the crease.
Boucher retirement statement reads, “I wish the team well in the UK, as I head home and onto a road of uncertain recovery.” Displays his commitment and love towards the team despite his serious injury and emotional moment of bidding good bye to something he was passionate from childhood.
Mark Boucher for long will be etched in the memories of South African cricket. Their will never, ever be another Boucher in the cricket and there will be never one to touch or even cross his amazing feet of 998 dismissals. A keeper effectiveness goes beyond just holding on the ball, because he is a heart and soul of any team. He is the source of energy from where it spreads to all players on the field at any moment of the match.
Every shout an keeper makes will tear an inch of confidence and concentration of a batmen at any stage. The words of keeper is what makes out of steam bowler to keep bowling and bowling at good length. At best, Keeper is the real captain on field since he knows exactly what’s happening and what needs to be done. As Graeme Smith greatly puts out, “You have been more than a performer; you have been a motivator, an inspirer, an energiser, and a good friend.“
There may be thoughts like he missed the great record of effecting 1000 dismissals but just like Don Bradman, his feet will be the bench mark for analyzing wicket-keeper effectiveness.