Boucher ends South Africa career
South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher has been forced to to retire from international cricket by the eye injury that earlier today ruled him out of the tour of England.
The 35-year-old had to undergo surgery on a laceration to the white of the left eyeball yesterday evening after freakishly being struck by a bail on day one of the Proteas' tour match against Somerset.
He was discharged from the Taunton hospital this morning, returned to the team hotel and was expected to travel home on the earliest available flight. The eye was still too swollen for a long-term prediction to be made about possible effects on his sight.
News of Boucher’s retirement came via Proteas Test captain Graeme Smith during the lunch interval today at Taunton.
Smith, reading a prepared statement by Boucher, said: “It is with sadness and in some pain that I make this announcement, but due to the severity of my eye injury I will not be able to play international cricket again.
"I prepared for this UK tour as well, if not better, than I have prepared for any tour in my career. I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now but circumstances have dictated differently.
"I have a number of thank-yous to make to people who have made significant contributions during my international career, which I will do in due course.
“For now, I would like to thank the huge number of people, many of whom are strangers, for their heartfelt support during the last 24 hours.
“I am deeply touched by all the well wishes, and I wish the team well in the UK as I head home on to a road of uncertain recovery."
Smith had a personal statement for his long-time team-mate, saying: “Bouch, we have walked a long road together, and we are saddened to part under these circumstances.
“For the 14 years of your international career, you have been a true Proteas warrior, a patriotic South African, a fighter who asks nothing and gives everything.
“You have been a 100 percenter for this team. You have been more than a performer, you have been a motivator, an inspirer, an energiser and a good friend to many.
“You leave us today with sad hearts, but also with a deep gratitude for your contributions to our team, and to us as people.
“The fighting spirit you brought to team remains with us. We wish you a good as possible recovery from your injury.
“As we bid you a farewell as an international cricketer and wish you well for your future, we keep you as a friend and respected Proteas warrior.
"We all know how much he has meant to us as a person, but his stats speak for themselves. I think he was in line to achieve his 150th Test match, his 1,000th dismissal in the game, so many other world records and stats that went with that.
"If you add that to the type of person he was, he will go down as one of the greats of the game, certainly one of the greats in South African cricket.
"I think now we are just more worried about Mark the person, and getting him through this situation."
Boucher had been expected to play in the three Investec Tests, starting at the Kia Oval on Thursday week, but not in the NatWest Series and NatWest International T20s that follow.
The third Test at Lord’s would have been the 150th of an international career that began in 1997. His 532 catches is a Test record. He also claimed 23 stumpings and scored 5,155 runs, including five centuries, at 30.3 in the longest format.
The right-handed batsman made 4,686 runs, featuring one hundred, in 295 one-day internationals, taking 403 catches and 22 stumpings. In 25 Twenty20 internationals he hit 268 runs and took 18 catches plus a stumping.
Given the nature of the injury, it was little surprise when it was initially announced he was heading back to South Africa.
“Mark Boucher will be returning home from the tour. Selectors will name a replacement in due course. Thank you all for your positive thoughts,” said Cricket South Africa on Twitter.
The injury occurred when a ball from spinner Imran Tahir bowled Gemaal Hussain, with Boucher stood up to the stumps and wearing a cap instead of a helmet. He immediately hit the ground and was helped from the pitch.
South Africa's team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee confirmed the injury and, after a visit to Accident and Emergency in Taunton, Boucher was scheduled for an operation.
Moosajee today said: “Mark's surgery, which lasted nearly three hours, showed that he sustained a severe eye injury and although the surgeon was able to repair the eyeball, the sensitive nature of the injury makes it difficult to determine the extent of the long-term damage.
"I spent the night with him in the recovery ward at the hospital and he has been overwhelmed by the messages of support and care he has received from all corners of the world.
"He will take no further part in the series against England and will return back to South Africa as soon as possible."
South Africa revealed that AB de Villers will keep wicket in the Tests. The 28-year-old is Smith’s vice-captain and an established member of the batting line-up who has previously provided cover behind the stumps in both Tests and ODIs.
Boucher’s replacement in the squad will be named tomorrow, with centrally contracted Thami Tsolekile likely to be called-up.
The last of Tsolekile’s three Tests was against England at Port Elizabeth in December 2004. The 31-year-old has not played in one-day or Twenty20 internationals, but claimed eight victims in an innings for South Africa A against Sri Lanka A at Durban last week.