Class and consistency
Had Mark Boucher played the three-Test series in England, he would have achieved several landmarks: the third Test, at Lord's, would have been his 150th, thus making him the first wicketkeeper to reach that mark; two more dismissals would have made him the first to effect 1000 dismissals as a wicketkeeper (he has also taken one catch as a fielder); 56 more runs in the series would have made him the highest run-getter among wicketkeepers in Tests, going past Adam Gilchrist's aggregate of 5570. Perhaps more than all that, it would have given him the opportunity to properly bid farewell to international cricket after a 15-year career (though he did hint at being available to tour Australia later this year).
The freak eye injury means Boucher won't get a shot at those landmarks, but rather than dwell on those misses, it makes far greater sense to celebrate the fact that he got so close to these gigantic landmarks. It speaks volumes about his longevity and his consistency that he performed at such high levels over a decade-and-a-half.
Boucher took over from Dave Richardson in 1998 (though he'd played a Test in Sheikhupura in 1997), and it didn't take him long to get into his stride, as a batsman and as a wicketkeeper. In his second Test innings, against Pakistan in Johannesburg, he scored 78; in his fourth and fifth innings, he scored 52 each. Along with that, he also effected nine dismissals in only his fourth Test, including six in the first innings, against Pakistan in Port Elizabeth - a performance which won him the Man-of-the-Match award - and repeated the haul of six in an innings in his next Test as well. In fact, Boucher is the only wicketkeeper to take six or more in an innings on four occasions, and nine or more in a match three times.
As a batsman, Boucher struggled a bit in his first 14 months, averaging less than 20, but his maiden Test hundred against West Indies early in 1999 set him on his way. Over the next several years he was a more-than-handy contributor with the bat. (In any other age an average in the mid-30s for a wicketkeeper would have been pretty neat; unfortunately, Adam Gilchrist came along and changed all the benchmarks.) Overall in his Test career, Boucher scored 4326 runs at Nos. 7 and 8, next only to Gilchrist and Kapil Dev.
|Period||Tests||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s||Ct/ St|
|Till Dec 1998||14||365||19.21||0/ 3||65/ 2|
|Jan 1999 to Dec 2004||62||2417||34.04||4/ 14||212/ 11|
|Jan 2005 to Dec 2010||62||2475||30.55||1/ 16||219/ 9|
|Jan 2011 onwards||9||258||23.45||0/ 2||36/ 1|
|Career||147||5515||30.30||5/ 35||532/ 23|
As a one-day player, Boucher wasn't a key member of the South African side in the last couple of years, but in the 11 years when he was around he made several vital contributions. As with his Test stats, though, he came within touching distance of a landmark here too, finishing just five short of 300 ODI appearances. Among South Africans, only Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock have played more ODIs.
Through the 2000s, Boucher was an integral part of South Africa's ODI line-up, consistently scoring brisk runs from positions 6 and 7. In that decade, no batsman scored more runs from those two slots than Boucher's 3222 runs from 140 innings. Several of those innings came in wins too, none more memorable than the unbeaten 50 off 43 against Australia in Johannesburg in that ODI. His highest was a brutal unbeaten 147 - off just 68 balls - but against much lesser opposition, Zimbabwe. Boucher's overall batting stats in wins was pretty impressive: in 118 innings he scored 2651 runs at an average of 36.81 and a strike rate of 92.98.
|Period||Matches||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s||Strike rate||Ct/ St|
|Till Dec 1999||43||316||13.16||0/ 1||69.45||58/ 3|
|Jan 2000 to Dec 2009||245||4323||32.02||1/ 25||86.59||335/ 18|
|Jan 2010 onwards||7||47||9.40||0/ 0||58.02||10*/ 1|
|Career||295||4686||28.57||1/ 26||84.76||403*/ 22|
In terms of dismissals for wicketkeepers in Tests, Boucher is way out in front with 555 dismissals, 139 of the second-placed Gilchrist. While no other wicketkeeper has even managed 400 catches, Boucher pouched 532. His dismissals per innings is impressive too, thanks to the array of fast bowlers that has always been at South Africa's disposal. In ODIs, Boucher finished with 424 dismissals, 48 behind Gilchrist, the leader.
Most great wicketkeepers have forged successful partnerships with fast bowlers during the course of their career and Boucher is no exception: of the 16 top bowler-wicketkeeper combinations in Tests (in terms of dismissals), Boucher features five times - with Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Allan Donald. He has taken 84 catches off the bowling off Ntini and 79 off Pollock. However, the dismissals-per-match figure was much lower in the case of Pollock. Only the Dennis Lillee-Rodney Marsh combination (95 dismissals in 69 Tests) and the Glenn McGrath-Gilchrist combination (90 dismissals in 71 Tests) are ahead of the Boucher-Ntini pairing. Although Boucher played only 35 Tests with Allan Donald, he took 53 catches off Donald's bowling at a rate of 1.51 dismissals per match, which is well above the corresponding number for Lillee-Marsh and McGrath-Gilchrist.
In ODIs, Boucher features twice in the top three - with Ntini (75 in 164 matches) and with Pollock (62 in 243).
|Dennis Lillee||Rodney Marsh||1971-1984||69||95||1.37|
|Glenn McGrath||Adam Gilchrist||1999-2007||71||90||1.26|
|Makhaya Ntini||Mark Boucher||1998-2009||96||84||0.87|
|Brett Lee||Adam Gilchrist||1999-2008||65||81||1.24|
|Shaun Pollock||Mark Boucher||1997-2008||88||79||0.89|
|Malcolm Marshall||Jeff Dujon||1983-1991||68||71||1.04|
As mentioned earlier, Boucher fell only 55 runs short of Gilchrist's tally in Tests. Gilchrist has a far superior average, but had Boucher played the three Tests in England, he would almost certainly have ended up with the most runs by a wicketkeeper.
|Adam Gilchrist||96||5570||47.60||17/ 26|
|Mark Boucher||147||5515||30.30||5/ 35|
|Alec Stewart||82||4540||34.92||6/ 23|
|Andy Flower||55||4404||53.70||12/ 23|
|Alan Knott||95||4389||32.75||5/ 30|
|Ian Healy||119||4356||27.39||4/ 22|
With inputs from Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter