We look at how Mark Boucher could still contribute to SA cricket.
It’s a real tragedy that Mark Boucher will not be able to reach his goal of 150 test matches. The legendary wicketkeeper batsman boasts a remarkable career that has seen him rack up 1 000 dismissals, 999 of them behind the stumps and one with ball in hand against the West Indies. The 35-year-old holds the record for the most test dismissals by a wicketkeeper with 555. Add in the 5 515 test runs and you have a record that any cricketer would be extremely proud of.
The freak accident that has resulted in Boucher retiring from international cricket is a terrible, but it should not deter the likes of Cricket South Africa from making him a mentor to young talent, or giving Boucher an official role identifying talented wicketkeepers. Regardless of the limitations to his vision (which reportedly may be minimal), his cricket brain is invaluable and should be used to benefit future and current cricketers looking to take their game a step further.
It might be a good idea to slot Boucher in with the National academy set-up or with the South Africa A side at first and make him a specialist wicketkeeping consultant, like Victor Matfield’s role as a line-out specialist with the Springboks just to ease him into the coaching set-up before exposing him to the national side.
As for AB de Villiers, keeping wicket is a big role, but I think that the ODI skipper has the talent and mental toughness to do the balancing act. It allows the Proteas an extra batsman or all-rounder in the side and although the workload is immense on de Villiers, it keeps someone who can influence the outcome of a game with his incredible array of skills in the match at all times. The challenge for de Villiers is avoiding injury, as a keeper’s hands take a proper beating with the amount of cricket played these days. The test set-up is different: a specialist keeper batsman is required and the long days in the field might prove taxing on de Villiers, especially when is needed to score big runs at number four. Give Thami Tsolekile a go and let him earn his spot, just like Boucher did 15 years ago.