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Feature

Timeline of Boucher's stint - some success, some failure, a lot of drama

He will step down as the South Africa men's head coach after the T20 World Cup, bringing an end to an eventful stint of just under three years

Himanshu Agrawal
13-Sep-2022
Mark Boucher started his stint with a win, in the Boxing Day Test of 2019  •  Getty Images

Mark Boucher started his stint with a win, in the Boxing Day Test of 2019  •  Getty Images

Mark Boucher will step down as South Africa's head coach after the men's T20 World Cup. Throughout his tenure, Boucher has been in the news, for cricketing and non-cricketing reasons. Here's a timeline.
December 2019: the appointment
In a frenetic few days before England visited South Africa in December 2019, Graeme Smith was named South Africa's director of cricket, and he chose Boucher as the men's head coach. That followed a tumultuous few weeks in South African cricket, in which the chief executive Thabang Moroe was suspended amid allegations of misconduct, and the administration was overhauled.
Soon after, South Africa won the Boxing Day Test in what was Boucher's first match in charge. It was also South Africa's first Test win in five games after losing 3-0 in India under interim team director Enoch Nkwe. But, despite taking a 1-0 lead, South Africa went on to lose the series against England by a 3-1 margin.
Australia toured South Africa for a limited-overs series soon after. Though Australia took the T20Is 2-1, South Africa swept them 3-0 in the ODIs, with opening batter Janneman Malan announcing himself with 129* in a successful chase of 272 in the second ODI.
December 2020 to March 2021: change is in the air
Regular captain Faf du Plessis was rested for the ODI series against England, which took place just after the Tests. Quinton de Kock was appointed stand-in captain, soon after which du Plessis stepped down as Test and T20I captain.
Smith then announced that de Kock would take over as ODI captain for the Australia games that followed too.
South Africa then hosted and beat an under-strength Sri Lanka 2-0 on their return to Test cricket in 2020-21 following the Covid-19 lockdown. But soon after, they lost 2-0 in the Tests in Pakistan, before also suffering 2-1 and 3-1 losses in the ODIs and T20Is, respectively, against Pakistan.
Du Plessis retired from Test cricket after the loss in Pakistan, and a change in the leadership was ushered in: Dean Elgar was named Test captain, and Temba Bavuma was the white-ball captain.
Late 2020 to early 2021: the race question
Boucher said - and explained why - South Africa wouldn't take a knee during their white-ball matches against England in November 2020. That opened a Pandora's Box of sorts, and South African cricket's relationship with racism, in general, and the Black Lives Matter movement in particular. Eventually, almost a year later, the CSA board issued a directive that the team would have to take a knee at the T20 World Cup.
July 2021: the resurgence, and more drama
South Africa were seventh on the ICC Test rankings table. Their Test resurgence began with a 2-0 win in the West Indies. However, they soon lost an ODI against Ireland for the first time in their history, dropping points on the World Cup Super League table, before also losing a series in Sri Lanka 2-1.
Boucher's name came up at the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearing, when the advocates assisting ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza asked former wristspinner Paul Adams if Boucher was among those who sang the team song that included the words "b**** s***" as a reference to Adams' skin colour. The procedures around Boucher's appointment as head coach were also questioned.
Boucher issued an apology through a lawyer, but did not testify at the SJN hearing. The ombudsman's report later named him as among those who could have been involved in discriminatory conduct - both historical and current.
January 2022 to May 2022: success and failure
South Africa narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot at the T20 World Cup in the UAE, hurt because of their poor net run-rate. The tournament was overshadowed by the CSA board directive to take a knee, which de Kock had initially refused to do.
But in the home summer of 2021-22, South Africa came back from 1-0 down to beat India 2-1 in the Tests. De Kock, however, retired from the format after the first match. South Africa then swept the ODIs 3-0, but in the immediate aftermath of victory, CSA levelled disciplinary charges against Boucher, and said they would seek his dismissal.
On tour to New Zealand soon after, they hit back following a three-day defeat to level the Test series 1-1. South Africa then lost a home ODI series to Bangladesh in March 2021 - and so lost out on Super League points they would have banked on - but without several Test regulars who opted for the IPL, won the Test series 2-0 to find themselves at the top of the WTC rankings.
In May 2022, CSA withdrew the charges against Boucher.
September 2022: the last leg
On an all-format tour of England, South Africa squared the ODI series 1-1, won the T20Is 2-1, beat Ireland 2-0, and then won the opening Test at Lord's. But they lost the Test series 2-1. They were shot out for their lowest total - 118 - in England in 110 years in the deciding Test at the Oval.
Afterwards, Boucher lamented their poor batting, and not long after, revealed that he would leave his job after the T20 World Cup in October. Boucher will be in place for the white-ball tour of India before the World Cup too.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo