So ends the career of one of the most enduring cricketers of the modern era - possibly of any era. Mark Boucher has been forced to retire three Tests earlier than had been generally mooted after being struck an unfortunate blow doing the job he has done better than most. In the tour match against Somerset, keeping in his beloved Protea's cap and not the helmet which is so often used as an substitute by modern keepers for a lack of skill, he was unlucky enough to have a googly from Imran Tahir lift from the broken stumps after Gemaal Hussain was bowled and strike his eye. The damage has been so severe, that even after a three hour operation where the subject was his eye ball, the outcome is uncertain. There was enough evidence for Boucher to know his desire to see his country to the number one spot won't be realised with him behind the stumps.
His captain and long time friend, Graeme Smith, spoke of his contribution, his great skill but mostly of Boucher as "a true Proteas warrior" and a man who asked for nothing and gave everything.
|Happier times with Graeme Smith|
Boucher was the toughest of competitors in the oldest sense of the word. He hated losing and was never satisfied with this win because he wanted the next one. In most respects, he was the heart of South Africa and the man who more often than not had the strongest words of motivation to say in those private team moments. He hated the choker tag, despite being honest enough to realise the truth that poor performances at vital times had been the purchase price. He will remain a good companion off the field with any group of cricketers from any nation but he will remain a fierce South African at even the vaguest good humoured threat.
When men who have served the game for so long and so well, leave, whether by choice or by unfortunate circumstance, sadness and reflection is an obvious response. Boucher has honoured the game and its traditions and has furthered its reputation whilst building his own as an unintended consequence. Custodians can do no more than leave the game better off for their participation and Boucher has made good on that deal.
However, as all that have left will know, the extent to which we are missed can be best exampled by a bucket of water. The departing player put his hand in when he started his career and even if he has made a significant splash as Boucher has, when he takes his hand out, the whole that is left in the water is how much he will be missed. The game moves on.
Ask Kevin Pietersen.