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July 10, 2012
Mark Boucher's steely attitude and sprightly wicketkeeping will be a significant loss for South Africa on their tour of England, the Australia coach Mickey Arthur has said. A close friend of Boucher from their days together with Cape Cobras and the South Africa side, Arthur was among the first of cricket's luminaries to extend a tribute to Boucher after his international retirement was forced by a horrendous eye injury.
Arthur learned of Boucher's retirement while preparing the Australian ODI team for the final match of their series against England at Old Trafford, and said the South African tour party had the task ahead of them to get over the departure of their wicketkeeper in such hurried and unhappy circumstances.
"They do need to get over it, I'm sure they will. He's going to be missed hugely though," Arthur told the BBC. "I've been in contact, and it is uncertain for him. Let's just hope that he gets his eyesight back and everything's good.
"I was really disappointed for him, I think he finished on 999 dismissals and just short of 150 Test matches. I know he wanted to come here because he wanted it to be his real swansong as a Test series, so really disappointing it end this way for Mark.
"I think he's right up there. You have a look at his batting and wicketkeeping stats and they're phenomenal."
Boucher and Arthur first grew close when the wicketkeeper was dropped from the South African team, spending plenty of time together at the Eastern Cape provincial side and charting Boucher's return to his international place.
"I have lots of memories as his coach, too many memories," Arthur said. "I was really close to Mark, I had a special affinity for him, I knew his family very well, for a time we lived in the same city, and I coached him at state level. I coached him for the period he was out of the South African side, when he got dropped for the first time and then got back into the team.
"So we went through a lot of hard times together, a lot of blood, sweat and tears with Bouch. I thought he was a fine cricketer a guy you really wanted on your side, a guy that never, ever gave up, fought to the bitter end and that's how I'll always remember him."
They were to become close again when Arthur was appointed South Africa coach, and among Arthur's happiest recollections of Boucher was his determination to ensure South Africa chased down a fourth innings target at Edgbaston in 2008 to secure a series win over England.
"I remember the series we won here in 2008, the Test match we won at Edgbaston was on the back of a very good innings by Graeme Smith, but Bouch was there at the end of it," Arthur said. "In his fighting way I remember him pointing the bat at Alastair Cook in one instance.
"I remember him telling me at tea time, he said 'coach if I'm at the wicket, and I will be there, we're going to win the series, we didn't come all the way to lose this'. That just typified exactly what he was like. He was always in there, he was always up for a challenge; a massive amount of fighting spirit."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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