Mark Verdon Boucher
December 03, 1976, East London, Cape Province
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
A man to go to war with, but never against, Mark Boucher packed all the archetypical attributes of the South African cricketer into his short, stocky frame. He was relentlessly competitive, invariably aggressive, and as hard and uncompromising as the new ball. After an international career that lasted almost 15 years, the end was desperately unfortunate, as Boucher was forced to announce his retirement after being hit in the eye by a bail in a warm-up game on the tour to England in 2012, which would have been his last series anyway. Boucher finished with 998 international dismissals as a wicketkeeper, including 555 in 147 Tests.
Boucher's start in international cricket was uncertain. His relative lack of pure wicketkeeping skill and ability was exposed on South Africa's 1998 tour to England when he was repeatedly undone by the swing of the ball after it had pitched. However, Boucher had no peer in terms of temperament, guts and determination, and he duly fashioned himself into one of the finest glovemen in the game. He could often be seen, long after the rest of the squad had hit the showers after a training session, willing himself through another set of wicketkeeping drills. The hard work paid off, and he is likely to hold the record for Test dismissals - among many others - long after his retirement.
As a batsman Boucher lived for the big moment, the quick 30 or 40 his team needed to win a match, or the session that had to be spent at the crease to ensure a draw. His most memorable innings was probably the scintillating unbeaten 50 he scored to complete South Africa's surge to a series-clinching target of 438 for 9 off the penultimate ball of a one-day international against Australia in Johannesburg in March 2006.
Boucher strutted through 75 consecutive Tests before the suits thought he needed to be brought down a peg or two and dropped him for the tour to India in 2004. His reality duly checked, he returned to the national team as the ultimate man for the trenches. In the autumn of his career, his renewed commitment to his conditioning earned him extra years at the top, and helped him become the first wicketkeeper to take 500 catches in Test cricket.
For a man who loomed so large in the world of cricket, Boucher started small. He was invariably smaller, and younger, than anyone else in the age-group provincial teams he played in. But the neon intensity in his eyes in the otherwise banal team photographs told of a kid who meant business. Boucher was a junior South African squash champion, and famously once played a national final with a racquet arm that had not long before emerged from a plaster cast. He lost, but in five games.
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