South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 3rd day

Boucher finally says goodbye

Seven months after a freak accident forced his retirement, fans and former team-mates paid public tribute to Mark Boucher

Firdose Moonda at Newlands

February 16, 2013

Comments: 52 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Smith wears a message for Mark Boucher, England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day, August 21, 2012
Graeme Smith's shirt from the Lord's Test against England was presented to Mark Boucher at Newlands © PA Photos
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Players/Officials: Mark Boucher
Series/Tournaments: Pakistan tour of South Africa
Teams: South Africa

Imagine the inside of your eye exposed and bleeding. Imagine that solidifying and then imagine the residue being scraped away. Mark Boucher lived through those things the first time he went under the knife to operate on his left eye when it was punctured by a bail to end his career.

"The worst pain I had was after that first operation. The doctor said it wasn't going to be a painful operation and it would take an hour but it actually took four-and-half hours. There was a bit of blood on the cornea and they had to sandpaper it away. I was drugged up but not as much as I wanted to be," he joked as he spoke to the media during his tribute day at the Newlands Test.

Boucher retired from the game in July but has had to wait seven months for a send-off. The cricketing schedule and a postponement for personal reasons had something to do with the delay but Boucher's health was also a concern. The reality is that the damage done was worse than initially expected and has required a much longer recovery time.

When Boucher left the UK on July 9, there was hope that he would be back at Lord's to watch the third match of the England series - what would have been his 150th Test. Travel was not an option at the time so he remained in South Africa but the team honoured him when they raised the Test mace.

Smith and Jacques Kallis wrote messages on their shirts which read, "We miss u Bouch," and "Bouch 150". Smith's was framed and handed over to Boucher during the tea interval today. A presentation from his team-mates formed part of the events as Boucher acknowledged fans for the last time. "I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to the crowds before so this was really special," he said.

Despite a mild case of flu, Boucher looked relaxed and had no hesitation discussing the gory details of his injury. "When it happened, I wasn't sure if the ball or the bail had hit me," he said. "Having looked at it on YouTube, I don't like to look at it too much because it freaks me out a bit. The bail hit me in the eye and went two centimetres back."

Within 24 hours, Boucher made one of the biggest decisions of his life. "I sat down with Paddy Upton, Jacques and Graeme. I knew the eye was seriously damaged. I was always going to retire so it was an easy decision make. I didn't want to go out that way but it could have happened at the beginning of my career and I wouldn't have been able to play so many matches for South Africa. I have got no hurt over it at all."

The pain has all been physical and there is more to come. Boucher has already had eight operations and is set for four more before the end of the year. "Some of the operations I have been awake for, like when they do this miniature procedure where they take a needle and put it in the eye and drain blood out," he said, without flinching at the description.

Boucher has accepted he is unlikely to see perfectly out of that eye ever again - he lost the lens, the iris and the pupil - although he is hopeful he will regain some vision. "Right now, it is like looking through binoculars that aren't focused. There is some sort of vision but I haven't got a lens in, so it's difficult to determine how much I will be able to get.

"They do a test on the retina and at the moment that test is pushing out 50% vision. It's not to say that I am going to get 50% back but the doctors are very happy with that. I can see colours and shapes. I will only be able to tell people what sort of vision I will have once they put the lens in.

"I will never play cricket again. I am back to doing normal things now and I have got to be patient with the healing process. I am not really a patient person but that's what I've got to do."


Mark Boucher speaks at the launch of a non-profit tie-up to preserve South Africa's rhinos, Johannesburg, October 30, 2012
Boucher has thrown himself into a conservation project since being forced to retire © Getty Images
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Until then, Boucher's life is full of new projects. He has launched a conservation project in conjunction with South African Breweries, which aims to raise fund to register rhinos, an endangered animal, on a national DNA database so they can be tracked down if poached.

"We are trying to raise a million Rand to give to a veterinary lab," Boucher explained. "It's like the CSI of the bush. You find a horn and you find a poacher and you can put the two together for DNA and you can then prosecute on that." His days also include a lot of golf and his wine label venture with Kallis.

Like Ricky Ponting, who retired in December, Boucher misses the camaraderie but not the bootcamp. "I don't miss the warm ups at all. Jacques and I used to joke in the slips that we'd love to be playing golf and now I can go and play the golf. But, the feeling of hitting the winning runs is special, or taking a good catch.

"That is something I will probably never feel again but I've got over that. I get the same feeling when we are on a rhino drive and we see the animal get up and move. I've replaced it with another passion of mine."

He has also been used as a mentor for the limited-overs' teams and may become involved with as a wicketkeeping consultant. "I would love to do it with the national team," he said. "Gary Kirsten asked me to look at a couple of keepers around the country and if I can give back to the game, I would love to, but nothing formal has been set up yet."

Boucher was brought in before the New Zealand series to work with Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers and said it was more mental than technical aspects that he focused on. "AB has been keeping really well. I don't think AB needs a lot of work, it's just about the mental side of things," he said. "With Quinton, I spent two sessions just talking with him. I was helping not only with keeping but talking to guys, because it's a young side, that one day side. You won't see me talking to the Test guys, they can look after themselves."

After his day at Newlands, cricket lovers can be assured that Boucher is doing the same thing for himself.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by FazleAbed on (February 19, 2013, 7:56 GMT)

Always feel you are better than Healy but say in any arrangement where I lost every time comparing you with Healy and Gilchrist. Congrats and thank you for your contribution in cricket.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 19:34 GMT)

Some great tributes to Boucher ... and from all around the world which shows how popular he was interationally.

Yes, many people have accidents and / or born with medical problems such as bad eye conditions. it is not the end of the world. But he has handled it all with tremondous courage and dignity and should be applauded for that.

It would have been great for him to have had the opportunity to leave the cricket arena under better circumstances.

Posted by GlobalCricketLover on (February 18, 2013, 14:27 GMT)

Hi Bouch, you should be proud of your contribution to the team. Though I am an Indian, I wont forget the hitting runs in that 438 match. Nice to know about your new initiative as well. Wish u good luck!

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 11:48 GMT)

my eye are full of tears while reading this.although i knew that he will never play again.i do not wanted to see inzzamam ponting mcgrath murli and wasim leaving the field.i am also afraid one day i will hear kallis and tendulkar announcing their retirements i don't know bouch will read this or not but i want to say that i will miss you and hope i can hear from you from time to time bouch

Posted by lvli on (February 17, 2013, 19:48 GMT)

When SA needed a man to win a match from a situation which was unlikely to produce desired result, Boucher always stood up, people often call SA chokers, but many forget easily that Boucher won many such games which were not in SA hands.

This was not an end which was expected for Boucher, such a great wicket-keeper, many of the takes he made were truly unbelievable, to all the guys, no comparisons between gilly n bouch please, both r truly great, but this article is only telling us about the pain Boucher had to endure, he did so, it would have been so difficult for such a fine cricketer to go out like this, not only this, now he is fighting for his health, wish u great life ahead Mr. Mark Boucher

I would like to tell you all Indian fans feel the same way for you..Get well soon.. :) Abhinav Sharma

Posted by athreya83 on (February 17, 2013, 14:25 GMT)

Bye Champ! Thank you for the memories!! Wishing you the very best! Good Luck!!

P.S : Nice to see a lot of fans irrespective of their nationality honoring this champion player!

Posted by unregisteredalien on (February 17, 2013, 13:22 GMT)

@greatshinwari: What's your point? Boucher not as good as Gilchrist therefore doesn't deserve the tributes? Boucher has been a magnificent cricketer who has achieved wonderful things over a long period of time. He suffered a horrifying freak accident which he has handled with class and courage, and he is going on to do new, positive things with his life. Huge respect, I say. (From an Aussie and big Gilly fan.)

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 13:02 GMT)

Bouch the quintessential Protea player.His nuggety defiant play has been his outstanding attributes.Everyone who is remotely interested in the game will doff their caps.We will miss you and hope you will enjoy your retirement and we can hear from you from time to time.The Dale boy is a shining example for all of us

Posted by greatshinwari on (February 17, 2013, 11:08 GMT)

compare the stats of both boucher and gilly... IN TESTS: gilly batting avg: 47.60 and dismissals/match: 4.3 boucher avg: 33.3 and dismissals/match: 3.7

in ODI's gilly avg 36 and strike rate of 97 boucher avg 28 and strike rate of 84...

Posted by redcat on (February 17, 2013, 11:06 GMT)

Bouch - the spirit of your tenacity remains as a legacy for the Protea's. Infusing a 'never give up' attitude is a unique ability. A cricket giant without doubt.

Posted by greatshinwari on (February 17, 2013, 10:56 GMT)

every one is saying that he was or he is the best wicketkeeper in the world... dont forget adam gilchrist ... compare the records of both then u all will see the difference.. also wicket keepers like sanga, dhoni andy flower and many more are much better than boucher...dont know why every praises a player only when he retires from cricket...

Posted by greatshinwari on (February 17, 2013, 10:47 GMT)

nice to be retire frm cricket.. he was gud keeper just bkz of great african bowling attack...in the likes of pollack donald and ntini etc...

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 10:42 GMT)

Mark Boucher was a terrific wicket-keeper and a great batsman as well... Cricket will miss him badly as do the fans.. In the present era, South Africa is the most successful test team and glad Bouch had been part of that team. He will take a lot of good memories both on and off the fiedl as he has been a great person as well.. Circket fans will miss your acrobatics, hard hitting and your presence on the field.. You deserve to be one of the best in the world Bouch... When RSA dedicated their series win in England to Bouch, it was tremendous to watch the gesture of the players especially Jacques Kallis and Greame Smith.. Cheers to a great man !!

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 10:10 GMT)

Feel very sorry for great South African WK-batter Mark Boucher for the abrupt end to his cricket career due to a freak eye-injury.

Posted by Akhter786 on (February 17, 2013, 10:02 GMT)

Mark Boucher, Kallis and recently Amla

these are the only reasons of me loving South Africa besides some hearbreaks every now and then,

HE IS THE BEST WICKETKEEPER THE WORLD HAS SEEN IN LONG LONG TIMES!!

With love from a Kashmiri fan!! :`(

Posted by Fareen on (February 17, 2013, 9:26 GMT)

His records may suggest otherwise, but in my honest opinion he's the best wicketkeeper I've seen. Was an amazing cricketer who fought till the end. Will miss you Bouch, hope you'll be connected to cricket.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 8:53 GMT)

@facebook user 4:07 GMT. I'm really surprised that you're on this website, since you clearly know very little about cricket. Aside from his records as a batsman and as a wicketkeeper, which speak for themselves (although you might do well to take some time to actuually read them); he was a solid lower middle order batsman who so often marshalled the tail end of a test innings or led the finish in a one day international. He has an exceptional record behind the stumps. Above all he was tough and fearless, never one to back down, a man to go to war with - not against. He gave everything for his team and his country everytime he walked onto the field. Boucher was a highly respected player, leader and person, not just in SA but around the world. If that isn't enough to convince you, perhaps the tributes from his highly esteemed team mates might provide a clue!!!

Posted by ahbsk on (February 17, 2013, 8:20 GMT)

Shan0111, you ve mentioned 999 dismissals; But u missed the solitary test wicket that he took.. So that sums up to 1000... Isn't it???

Posted by No1fan on (February 17, 2013, 5:20 GMT)

Probably the best keeper batsman of all time in test cricket.better than even Gilly who was a batsman/keeper.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (February 17, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

It is hard enough to read all the inner details of the surgery, so one can imagine what Boucher must have gone through physically. Pretty sad way for such an illustrious career to finish, but nice to know Bouch has got over that and is keeping himself busy. All the best wishes for a speedy and through recovery. You deserve that mate !

Posted by freeurmind101 on (February 17, 2013, 4:08 GMT)

We miss you Bouch! Great leader and a class act.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 4:07 GMT)

Another choker who always failed during big moments. Like Boucher but he does not deserve a send off. Let's not over rate him because of a horrific injury. Can't believe these guys overrate guys Boucher and nitini, they don't deserve send offs. They were okay players. Pollock deserved a send off because he was a legend. Boucher is no Shaun pollock.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 3:16 GMT)

You will always be remembered Boucher, you are a legend of the game. Wish you the best with your scheduled operations.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 3:16 GMT)

we miss u Bouch... ur aggression and clean hitting

Posted by sirvivfan on (February 17, 2013, 3:00 GMT)

Good luck Boucher and i hope rest of your future turns out to be happy and successful. Stay in SA and help them develop. Riaz ( Pak supporter)

Posted by cloudmess on (February 17, 2013, 1:24 GMT)

Really glad to read this, that his eye is managing at least a partial recovery and that he is busy and still involved with SA cricket. It was a horrific injury, and a sad way to end his career, having worked so hard for the England tour. But there is always still a life to be lived after cricket.

Posted by SillyMidPavilion on (February 16, 2013, 23:26 GMT)

boucher's gonna save the rhinos just by sheer force of will, kinda like he saved the saffers multiple times throughout his career. as the keeper for my local under-16's team, i really enjoyed watching him keep at boxing day 2008. even if the aussies ended up losing that test and that series. so many other comments have already said this, but the game just won't be the same without him.

Posted by loki897 on (February 16, 2013, 22:44 GMT)

Mark Boucher is been dreadful what you have gone through. putting a needle through your eye and draining blood. ouch! And you still expect no sympathies, you're helping the environment, helping talented keepers. seriously SA Cricket needs to award him with something. To go though so much pain and still sacrifice his rare free time to help Soun Afican cricket is just true selfless loyal warrior gentleman and was denied 1000 catches by that and he is living in such circumstance. anyway, Boucher 50% eyesight is great for your circumstance considering the circumstances and many 40 year old tend to thave 6

Posted by HeartMaker on (February 16, 2013, 22:39 GMT)

GOOD LUCK BOUCHER for your future We all will really miss you Take care

Posted by willowcric on (February 16, 2013, 22:04 GMT)

Awesome combination! Mark Boucher, a tough guy keeping a protective watch over the tough rhinos. May the poachers be caught and the rhinos be saved beyond the number of catches and stumpings of your wicket keeping record. A Caribbean fan wishing you miraculous recovery.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 21:14 GMT)

very sad. really wish that he get all his eye back.

Posted by smithy.nottingham on (February 16, 2013, 21:05 GMT)

Great fighter and hugely respected opponent, you should be proud of your achievements.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 20:59 GMT)

One of the best. We will all miss you on the field Bouchie. And you are still doing a great job off the field. Kudos!

Posted by a-khan74 on (February 16, 2013, 20:58 GMT)

since then always missing the best fighter in the field.best wishes & good luck Bouch.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 20:11 GMT)

we ll miss u..................

Posted by sarangsrk on (February 16, 2013, 19:21 GMT)

To say that this guy is a fighter would be a huge understatement and huge disrespect to the man. Even without this injury, he was a warrior, champion and true team-man. With such a high positive outlook, there's no denying Bouch for his latest passion to save Rhinos. Go Bouch, you are the MAN. With all love and respect from India and Indians.

Posted by faizan_feroz on (February 16, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

when you talk of keepers with the status of legend only two names come to my mind MARK BOUCHER the best wicket keeper and ADAM GILCHRIST best keeper batsman , the game is not the same without either of them :)

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (February 16, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

Good luck to your Mark, hope you pursue your passions and come out successful every time. You were an inspiration to countless wicket keepers around the world. Cricket will miss you dearly. God bless.

Posted by Puffin on (February 16, 2013, 19:07 GMT)

Glad to hear he is doing well after that nasty injury. Also good to see him helping the next generation along, putting that wealth of experience to use is very important in any sport. Good luck with the Rhino conservation, that needs all the big names it can get.

Posted by Shajadul on (February 16, 2013, 18:51 GMT)

Best wishes for your future life......

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 18:47 GMT)

The Bradman of wicketkeepers, his records are unlikely to be ever erased

Posted by sticket on (February 16, 2013, 18:19 GMT)

Bye bro, have a great life.

Posted by tickcric on (February 16, 2013, 18:18 GMT)

Well said, TommytuckerSaffa. Boucher is an all time great.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 17:47 GMT)

Respect....Bouchie, u were a top gun for Proteas. Best of luck to for the future.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 16, 2013, 17:38 GMT)

Ultimate warrior and world record holder. All hail mark boucher, what a career!

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 17:35 GMT)

best wicketkeeper batsman................

Posted by khurramsch on (February 16, 2013, 17:23 GMT)

good luck to him for future and his projects. he is been a fine player. only sad thing is that he has to retire like that. nice cricketer. good bye.

Posted by babubhaiyya on (February 16, 2013, 17:14 GMT)

RESPECT . . . . . . He was a great cricketer . . . .

Posted by wakaPAK on (February 16, 2013, 17:08 GMT)

He was like the constant in SA team; The first thing which the name SA broght to my mind was Mark Boucher. Good luck with the conservation project. It's good to see cricketers involving in such activities after retirement. We dont see a lot.

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