South African cricket July 14, 2012

A commoner behind the stumps

Soham Sarkhel
He was not that brilliant a player for whom words would fall short; he was no Viv Richards, he was no Jacques Kallis, he was simply Mark Boucher; yet the announcement of his retirement has somewhere left us with a feeling of an unexplained gloom
21

I won't talk about Mark Boucher's childhood, his records or what he used to eat when he was a 12 year old--an ESPNcricinfo check is enough for that. To say that 'words cannot do justice to Mark Verdon* Boucher' would be an insult, firstly to the endless number of writers who use the phrase continuously for any celebrity piece and secondly to Boucher himself. The reason for me saying that is primarily because he was not that brilliant a player for whom words would fall short; he was no Viv Richards, he was no Jacques Kallis, he was simply Mark Boucher; yet the announcement of his retirement has somewhere left a space within us, a feeling of an unexplained gloom; maybe it was because he touched a chord with us -- the basic chord of human survival and while at it showing how to bring out the best possible results.

Deep down, a lot of us connected with Boucher not only because of his selfless attitude but also because of the fact that he epitomised a commoner in every possible manner. He was not a prodigy, yet he achieved a lot with his practice, perseverance, will, dedication and most importantly hard work. He knitted them all in a strenuous manner and gave us a hope that even if we are mundane and unattractive in our mannerisms, our efforts may lead us to our greatest glories. And that indeed was the beauty of Boucher; he didn't fit into the sporting clich├ęs of amazing players, yet somewhere he had an identity of his own.

In his first tour to England, he faced criticism because of his inability to keep his body in line with the swinging deliveries. But 15 years down the line, with 998 international wicketkeeping dismissals, he has done enough to answer those critics. Not even an ardent cricket fan would pay to watch Boucher play and do 540 squats in a day, but if ever a situation came of South Africa needing to play out the last 10 overs of the day with four wickets in hand, Boucher would be everyone's safe bet.

When he came in, the game still used to have a specialist keeper who could bat. But soon, with the emergence of Adam Gilchrist, the scenario changed to exactly the opposite and even though Boucher was not in the same mould as Gilchrist, he never had a prolonged poor patch with his bat to get the axe. Here and there, he would chip in with his 30s and 40s.

In his quintessential manner, Boucher was present each and every time anything significant happened in the South African cricketing history. After Hansie Cronje was banned, he was one of the few 'seniors' to guide the South Africa team amid the dark times and later, a young captain in Graeme Smith. He was there during South Africa's heartbreaking loss in the 1999 World Cup; he was on strike during their elimination in the 2003 edition; he was the man scoring the winning runs off the penultimate ball in the epic Johannesburg run chase against Australia. He was there every time, he contributed every time; it is just that we never noticed him in that manner.

He was a character that cricket needed and it is because of players like him that the game manages to carry forward its purity and integrity. Just in the manner Boucher lived his career, all the glories that would have most definitely brought him to the spotlight never eventually happened for him. If he had played the England Test series, he would have achieved his 150th Test cap (that too at the Lord's); playing through the series also would have most definitely made him the first wicketkeeper to have 1000 international dismissals.

But then all this was not supposed to happen. Boucher was never destined for such greatness, even at the end of his career, he radiated the feeling that he was after all a commoner like us and that everything in life need not be perfect. He came, he saw but he never conquered. He only achieved and that is what separated Boucher from the rest.

*July 15, 201, 1115 GMT: The article incorrectly mentioned Mark Boucher's middle name as Devon. This has been corrected.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tom on July 17, 2012, 5:20 GMT

    I think the author is trying to draw attention to the unpretentious and perhaps unglamourous manner in which Boucher approached the game. His career was doubtless overshadowed by those of his contemporaries - players like Kallis, Steyn, Donald, Smith, Pollock, Ntini et al. The author's mistake, however, is to suggest that flamboyance and ostentation are essential indicators of a cricketer's 'greatness'. In particular, wicketkeepers cannot be evaluated according to those criteria. A good gloveman should be unobtrusive and consistent. His role does not lend itself to virtuoso game-changing performances; nor does it provide scope for the easy assessment of statistical excellence. Boucher's unflashiness is no good reason to underestimate his talent.

  • Vatsa on July 15, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Boucher through his sheer committment and never say die attitude connected with cricket fans all over the world. It was a shock when he was dropped in 2004-05 for Tsolekile and again for the last World Cup. He was very aggressive on the field, but it was never a dirty SAF image unlike a lot of the Aussies who were similar in attitude but got a dirty streak to their on field behaviour. Will be missed by fans.

  • Anonymous on July 15, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    I'm not sure how to interpret this article. It's complimentary on one hand and derogatory on the other. I for one think Mark Boucher is incredibly talented and not your average or common keeper. Yes he had to work hard, but don't all top sportsmen / women? Bouchy pulled us out of some serious dwang time after time after time, and in my view that requires some exceptional talent!

  • Vinod Iyer on July 15, 2012, 12:06 GMT

    "Deep down, a lot of us connected with Boucher not only because of his selfless attitude but also because of the fact that he epitomised a commoner in every possible manner"- u said it-bro...Bouch was always a scrapper, an unfashionable lower order bat who could score that vital 30-40 that put a total beyond reach, his keeping was excellent, steady more than spectacular, he gave the essence of being a thorough team man and he always looked busy but looked like he enjoyed his trade, always went about his business with minimal of fuss, hype and hoopla. Farewell, to a true proud protean, hope hisoperation goes well...from your indian fan :)

  • Slick on July 15, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    This is a ridiculously poor article. Firstly his middle name is 'Verdon' not Devon. Secondly he had 999 international wicket-keeping dismissals not 998 as mentioned above. Thirdly, Boucher was certainly a prodigy and destined for greatness after a remarkably mature start to his international career at the age of 20 replacing a steadfast incumbent in Dave Richardson. Compare Wade's tentative first steps in international colours - and his start gets even better. Calling him a commoner is downright insulting. What's Kallis then, a serf? Can only Indian players be royalty?

  • Shailesh Karnik on July 15, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Mark was and is a true champion. So Sad that he had the injury. Hope he gets well soon.

  • swapnendu das on July 15, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    didnot like the last part he definitely conquered in my opinion the best gloveman of our era

  • avinash on July 15, 2012, 10:41 GMT

    He was indeed incredible ! His records speaks for itself. Though he didn't at the top of the order, he still managed to get 30's and 40's here n there.

  • Andy on July 15, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    Could not have described the man and his achievments any better than this, GOOD LUCK Bouchie you have done us proud. GOD BLESS YOU

  • Kelly on July 15, 2012, 9:41 GMT

    Boucher isn't Kallis. He isn't Richards, he isn't Tendulkar, he isn't a player that could set a cricketing stage alight. However - he is not ordinary nor is he common. What sets him apart is his mentality. Not once have I witnessed him step onto a cricket field and not give it his all. Be it in a practice match or in the Test arena - he had the utmost respect for the game. In a world where cricketing mercenaries are prevalent and people would far rather earn millions playing a bit of hit-and-giggle, that is something to be admired. He truly took pride in playing for his country and because of that, as a South African, I will hold him in as high regard as I do any great cricketer. For his leadership, his tenacity, his competitiveness and his courage - Mark Verdon Boucher is a legend.

  • Tom on July 17, 2012, 5:20 GMT

    I think the author is trying to draw attention to the unpretentious and perhaps unglamourous manner in which Boucher approached the game. His career was doubtless overshadowed by those of his contemporaries - players like Kallis, Steyn, Donald, Smith, Pollock, Ntini et al. The author's mistake, however, is to suggest that flamboyance and ostentation are essential indicators of a cricketer's 'greatness'. In particular, wicketkeepers cannot be evaluated according to those criteria. A good gloveman should be unobtrusive and consistent. His role does not lend itself to virtuoso game-changing performances; nor does it provide scope for the easy assessment of statistical excellence. Boucher's unflashiness is no good reason to underestimate his talent.

  • Vatsa on July 15, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Boucher through his sheer committment and never say die attitude connected with cricket fans all over the world. It was a shock when he was dropped in 2004-05 for Tsolekile and again for the last World Cup. He was very aggressive on the field, but it was never a dirty SAF image unlike a lot of the Aussies who were similar in attitude but got a dirty streak to their on field behaviour. Will be missed by fans.

  • Anonymous on July 15, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    I'm not sure how to interpret this article. It's complimentary on one hand and derogatory on the other. I for one think Mark Boucher is incredibly talented and not your average or common keeper. Yes he had to work hard, but don't all top sportsmen / women? Bouchy pulled us out of some serious dwang time after time after time, and in my view that requires some exceptional talent!

  • Vinod Iyer on July 15, 2012, 12:06 GMT

    "Deep down, a lot of us connected with Boucher not only because of his selfless attitude but also because of the fact that he epitomised a commoner in every possible manner"- u said it-bro...Bouch was always a scrapper, an unfashionable lower order bat who could score that vital 30-40 that put a total beyond reach, his keeping was excellent, steady more than spectacular, he gave the essence of being a thorough team man and he always looked busy but looked like he enjoyed his trade, always went about his business with minimal of fuss, hype and hoopla. Farewell, to a true proud protean, hope hisoperation goes well...from your indian fan :)

  • Slick on July 15, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    This is a ridiculously poor article. Firstly his middle name is 'Verdon' not Devon. Secondly he had 999 international wicket-keeping dismissals not 998 as mentioned above. Thirdly, Boucher was certainly a prodigy and destined for greatness after a remarkably mature start to his international career at the age of 20 replacing a steadfast incumbent in Dave Richardson. Compare Wade's tentative first steps in international colours - and his start gets even better. Calling him a commoner is downright insulting. What's Kallis then, a serf? Can only Indian players be royalty?

  • Shailesh Karnik on July 15, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Mark was and is a true champion. So Sad that he had the injury. Hope he gets well soon.

  • swapnendu das on July 15, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    didnot like the last part he definitely conquered in my opinion the best gloveman of our era

  • avinash on July 15, 2012, 10:41 GMT

    He was indeed incredible ! His records speaks for itself. Though he didn't at the top of the order, he still managed to get 30's and 40's here n there.

  • Andy on July 15, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    Could not have described the man and his achievments any better than this, GOOD LUCK Bouchie you have done us proud. GOD BLESS YOU

  • Kelly on July 15, 2012, 9:41 GMT

    Boucher isn't Kallis. He isn't Richards, he isn't Tendulkar, he isn't a player that could set a cricketing stage alight. However - he is not ordinary nor is he common. What sets him apart is his mentality. Not once have I witnessed him step onto a cricket field and not give it his all. Be it in a practice match or in the Test arena - he had the utmost respect for the game. In a world where cricketing mercenaries are prevalent and people would far rather earn millions playing a bit of hit-and-giggle, that is something to be admired. He truly took pride in playing for his country and because of that, as a South African, I will hold him in as high regard as I do any great cricketer. For his leadership, his tenacity, his competitiveness and his courage - Mark Verdon Boucher is a legend.

  • Suresh Haridas on July 15, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    To me, more than his wicket keeping, it was his unassuming walk to the crease which promised stubborn resistance, that made me feel apprehensive as an Indian fan.

  • LD on July 15, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    So to summarise - you've said Mark Boucher was an average player who had mundane and unattractive mannerisms. And then bundled it altogether to somehow sound like a complimentary piece. Oh, then even more utterly stupifying, you say had he taken two more dismissals as a W/K THEN he would be able to be considered a great. Pffftt! Poor bit of writing. Up your game.

  • Ruwan on July 15, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    Boucher , a great South African Crickter, we salute you. You are one of the few sensational and ethic players of the game. You are remarkable. We wish you speed recovery, God bless you !!

  • BokFan on July 15, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    The Commoner should have been captain since 2003. Unfortunately Cricket SA panicked after the 2003 local World Cup debacle, and Omar Henry appears to have been intimidated by Graeme Smith's determination to earn a spot in the SA ODI squad.

    The result is that Boucher's genius was wasted in a consultancy role. No wonder the guy always seemed bored beyond belief.

    Biff, OTOH, did OK as a batsman, not so good as a captain. Biff might have been great as a batsman, unburdened by the captaincy...

  • vishal yadav on July 14, 2012, 20:41 GMT

    u described him so well and pure that even Legendry Mark Boucher can't do.....he is a man of crises.....he was always there when his team needed him the most.....i remember that fighting half century against India in test....only he can do it and it takes another great of the game Sachin's delivery to dismiss him but in an unconvincing manner the ball didn't rise even a foot or two.....but till then he successfully made sure we don't loss the match.. words can't describe his greatness.....take a bow master we will miss u behind the wickets.....and feeling sad for next generation they will have to see u keep in videos only.....we all miss a legend a man made to have gloves in his hands and keep shouting common mates keep the good work.....with this one more legend goes down in history books.......salute u boucher...........

  • Vaibhav Gupta on July 14, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    Perhaps one of the best descriptions of a player. Boucher almost was the "man who wasn't there". Do the job and get out. No fuss. Hope he writes a book on his cricketing life. It could quite possibly the story of some of the most tumultous times of South African cricket

  • jjs on July 14, 2012, 18:45 GMT

    So he is the only cricketer to have achieved whilst the all the rest conquer? Or are you referring to the very few who achieve 'greatness'as the 'rest'. There are/were plenty of cricketers and keepers worse than Boucher. You make his career sound a bit like a sob story. Maybe it was in some aspects...

  • Gonzo on July 14, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    Strange article, Boucher is an extremely gifted sportsman. He could have played squash for SA and is naturally good at golf and other sports. He played some important innings for SA, could clear the boundary, and became a test keeper at 21. Not really average at all.

  • Amal Perera on July 14, 2012, 17:46 GMT

    I have watched cricket for the last 40 years or so, and seen lots of talented and brilliant ones. Boucher is almost there . Wish you a speedy recovery and hopefully back in cricket sooner than later. Also I am bit puzzled as to why retirement was announced soon after this unfortunate incident.

  • M.Awais on July 14, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    A brilliant read.... an inspiration for anyone who wants to be a professional. A great name to the cricketing world... may he get well very soon.

  • Stan Hannan on July 14, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    I admire Mark Boucher above most cricketers for the very reasons you so eloquently describe. He was tenacious and a talented wicketkeeper and a solid and stolid batsman. I enjoyed watching him and somehow could not help "root" for him. I have no doubt he has mutch to offer to the game and hoope he will stay involved. Go well Mark-you set a high standard!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Stan Hannan on July 14, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    I admire Mark Boucher above most cricketers for the very reasons you so eloquently describe. He was tenacious and a talented wicketkeeper and a solid and stolid batsman. I enjoyed watching him and somehow could not help "root" for him. I have no doubt he has mutch to offer to the game and hoope he will stay involved. Go well Mark-you set a high standard!

  • M.Awais on July 14, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    A brilliant read.... an inspiration for anyone who wants to be a professional. A great name to the cricketing world... may he get well very soon.

  • Amal Perera on July 14, 2012, 17:46 GMT

    I have watched cricket for the last 40 years or so, and seen lots of talented and brilliant ones. Boucher is almost there . Wish you a speedy recovery and hopefully back in cricket sooner than later. Also I am bit puzzled as to why retirement was announced soon after this unfortunate incident.

  • Gonzo on July 14, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    Strange article, Boucher is an extremely gifted sportsman. He could have played squash for SA and is naturally good at golf and other sports. He played some important innings for SA, could clear the boundary, and became a test keeper at 21. Not really average at all.

  • jjs on July 14, 2012, 18:45 GMT

    So he is the only cricketer to have achieved whilst the all the rest conquer? Or are you referring to the very few who achieve 'greatness'as the 'rest'. There are/were plenty of cricketers and keepers worse than Boucher. You make his career sound a bit like a sob story. Maybe it was in some aspects...

  • Vaibhav Gupta on July 14, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    Perhaps one of the best descriptions of a player. Boucher almost was the "man who wasn't there". Do the job and get out. No fuss. Hope he writes a book on his cricketing life. It could quite possibly the story of some of the most tumultous times of South African cricket

  • vishal yadav on July 14, 2012, 20:41 GMT

    u described him so well and pure that even Legendry Mark Boucher can't do.....he is a man of crises.....he was always there when his team needed him the most.....i remember that fighting half century against India in test....only he can do it and it takes another great of the game Sachin's delivery to dismiss him but in an unconvincing manner the ball didn't rise even a foot or two.....but till then he successfully made sure we don't loss the match.. words can't describe his greatness.....take a bow master we will miss u behind the wickets.....and feeling sad for next generation they will have to see u keep in videos only.....we all miss a legend a man made to have gloves in his hands and keep shouting common mates keep the good work.....with this one more legend goes down in history books.......salute u boucher...........

  • BokFan on July 15, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    The Commoner should have been captain since 2003. Unfortunately Cricket SA panicked after the 2003 local World Cup debacle, and Omar Henry appears to have been intimidated by Graeme Smith's determination to earn a spot in the SA ODI squad.

    The result is that Boucher's genius was wasted in a consultancy role. No wonder the guy always seemed bored beyond belief.

    Biff, OTOH, did OK as a batsman, not so good as a captain. Biff might have been great as a batsman, unburdened by the captaincy...

  • Ruwan on July 15, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    Boucher , a great South African Crickter, we salute you. You are one of the few sensational and ethic players of the game. You are remarkable. We wish you speed recovery, God bless you !!

  • LD on July 15, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    So to summarise - you've said Mark Boucher was an average player who had mundane and unattractive mannerisms. And then bundled it altogether to somehow sound like a complimentary piece. Oh, then even more utterly stupifying, you say had he taken two more dismissals as a W/K THEN he would be able to be considered a great. Pffftt! Poor bit of writing. Up your game.