It’s been over a year since Mark Boucher was forced to retire from all forms of cricket due to injury. Although that was a traumatic time for the former South African gloveman, he’s doing a fine job adjusting to a new career with all the same old dogged determination and honesty he had during his playing days. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since a dramatic injury ended Mark Boucher’s career sooner than he anticipated. That dramatic day in Taunton back in July 2012 – when a bail ricocheted into Boucher’s eye, ending his career – is something which will forever be in cricket fans’ memories. In his new book, Through My Eyes, Boucher describes the moment he had to walk off the field as something that brought him to his knees.
“The shock was setting in. Suddenly it was like my legs had been cut off and I’d been shot by a sniper at the same time. I could feel nothing below my waist, let alone in my feet. I dropped to the ground like a brick,” he writes.
The impact of the damage was evident pretty early on. Boucher would have to retire three games earlier than he had planned. There was a lot of anger, but that all disappeared slowly and Boucher has, as his is nature, got on with life.
He has seamlessly slotted into an analyst role in the SuperSport studio, offering a rare kind of insight, honesty and provocative opinions. When players call it a day, they often struggle with the adjustment of being away from the game. Boucher, though, hasn’t had those issues since he always knew retirement was coming and he had mentally prepared himself for it. He didn’t even need to be primed and pruned by media trainers to make his analyst gig work for him.
“I don’t think you need media training if you have been in the game 15 years. We did do some things at the academy, but until you’ve been put in that situation, you don’t know what to do,” he told The Daily Maverick.
“I had prepared myself already for getting out of the game. It wasn’t difficult, I’ve enjoyed retirement and being a part of new things and new passions. When people ask me about cricket now, I feel comfortable commenting on it because I learnt so much from the game,” he added.
Anyone who has watched Boucher on TV would agree that his analytical brain has been really good. While South Africa aren’t exactly short on coaching staff, Boucher hopes to work with individuals at some point and has already offered his services to Cricket South Africa.
“I’d love to get back to the game from a coaching perspective, to help out individuals who specialise in things I used to specialise in. I’d also like to maybe help out guys who aren’t mentally up to scratch – perhaps helping out the SA A guys,” he says.
“I have offered my services to Cricket South Africa, though, but I know they have a few issues of their own to sort out. Hopefully, once they have sorted it out, they can come back to me to see how I can help out the structure.”
One individual who has had comparisons drawn between him and Boucher is Quinton de Kock. The pair worked together for a few sessions during New Zealand’s tour of the country last year, but haven’t had contact that stretched much further than that. Boucher issues caution when it comes to hyping up the youngster. Although De Kock has recently shown he does have the talent to make it at international level and has grown in maturity, putting in a lot of extra work by himself, the former South African wicketkeeper urges those who are delighted by his performances to steady on.
“I don’t really know Quinton well enough. He’s a good talent and we can see that he’s performing, but I think we need to pump the brakes on for a while. The more people start talking about him, the more pressure he’s put under to perform. He’s got a long way to go, but I like his work ethic. As long as he keeps his feet on the ground and the coaches and public don’t put too much pressure on him, he’ll thrive,” said Boucher.
In the same breath, Boucher insists that when it comes to youth versus experience, experience will always trump, and even though players like De Kock have been given an opportunity through another player’s injury, their place in the side should be far from secured.
“We’re very quick in this country to talk about youngsters and say they’re the future this and the future that. I think we need to be more careful with our youngsters. There’s still a place for the old faces: there are only 11 cricketers in a side and sometimes we rest guys. When those rested guys come back, people have to be left out. Quinney got his opportunity because Graeme (Smith) was out injured and did well, but if I were going into a World Cup final tomorrow, I’d still back the senior player. Quinney will have his time and he’ll have a long career ahead of him if he wants,” Boucher said.
Aside from playing golf and being an analyst, Boucher is also heavily involved in rhino conservation and has just reached his R1-million target for a DNA database to be established and run by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL). In the next few months, he’ll be setting up meetings to try to get the database sets up, but the former wicketkeeper says it won’t stop there.
“I want to make sure I keep raising funds and whether we have a specific goal we’re raising funds for or not, I’ll keep doing that. We don’t take any of the cash, so I hope we can help some other people who need to be helped, too,” he said.
In his playing days, Boucher was a terrier, a feisty and never-say-die kind of player whom the team could turn to in times of trouble. Although much of that attitude still remains, there is a sense of calm emanating from him now. Despite the challenge of having to deal with partly losing his vision in his one eye, Boucher is calm, content and happy-go-lucky. His future away from playing is looking as bright as it did for the man who broke records like they were plates at a Greek wedding. DM
Photo: Mark Boucher (REUTERS/Nigel Marple)