The Terrier added true value to Proteas side
13 July 2012 | NIEL McKENZIE
Mark Boucher was well on his way to doing just that and deservedly so. He had stated in numerous forums that the tour to England would be his last and how motivated and prepared he felt for his final challenge.
But life has an uncanny way of stumping the best of us and Mark was one of the unfortunate candidates.
He will leave a massive void in South African cricket and simply can’t be replaced.
We all know about his cricketing prowess but the biggest thing we’ll miss are his mental qualities – the tenacity, leadership and grittiness.
He truly was the heartbeat of the Proteas side for well over a decade. You have to be the best to spend that amount of time in international sport.
When tributes are made to other greats of South African cricket such as Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock, who was invariably in the background effecting those landmark dismissals?
For the next few years it will almost not look right seeing someone else catching behind the stumps. Despite all the tributes that were given to him this week, maybe we still don’t quite realise the value he added to our game.
Interestingly, Mark’s credentials as a gloveman have never been questioned, which is perfectly understandable given the fact he ended on an agonising 999 career dismissals.
With the modern-day keeper required to be more of a batter that can catch a few edges behind, Mark’s average in the low 30s suggest that he was merely a good lower order option.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
When we played in the same national Under-19 combination, his forte was actually as an opening batsman – he was merely our second-choice gloveman. Being a multi-talented sportsman though, he decided to focus more on his keeping. Seeing the merits of being an all-rounder, the decision and dedication, obviously, paid off spectacularly.
Mark’s batting stats are merely reflective of a man who was given a specific responsibility – to be a lower order bolter.
And boy, did he do it well. How many times did he pull the Proteas out of trouble? How many high pressure situations did Boucher come out on top?
I can state with the utmost confidence that Mark could’ve played at the top level on his batting alone, he was merely at times moulded by the role he was given. One can only wonder what he would have done with the bat in a lesser side having the opportunity batting higher up.
Replacing the “Terrier” will simply not happen, so let’s rather discuss his “successors” not “replacements”.
My franchise team-mate Thami Tsolekile has already been summoned to join the guys in the UK and I believe that he’s definitely one of the top candidates. He’s matured and knows his game. His batting has jumped levels since coming to the Lions. His keeping has always been of a high quality. He can get the job done.
Another possibility, particularly in the Test format, is Heino Kuhn, who is arguably the most accomplished batter among South Africa’s domestic wicketkeepers.
Dane Villas is another exciting prospect but probably needs another season behind the stumps for the Cobras in the longer format.
As always in the Rainbow Nation there’s plenty of talented resources. For now it seems that the selectors are inclined to use AB de Villiers, who keeps in one-day internationals.
We’ve seen that he’s more than comfortable with the responsibility in that form of the game but to extend it to the pinnacle format will inevitably raise questions again over whether it will impact his batting.
Also, one should be mindful of the effect it could have on his back, which has given him problems in the past.
People can argue that De Villiers is the “safe” option for this series but it allows JP Duminy to come in, who bats and bowls good off-spinners. It certainly helps the Proteas take the 20 wickets needed to win games. Whichever way the selectors go, I’m confident we have the players to get the job done.
But one thing is certain Mark Verdon Boucher will be missed immensely.
We wish him a speedy and full recovery from a serious injury.
Knowing Bouch, he’ll be winning a staring competition next month!
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