Former England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart said Mark Boucher’s sudden retirement following a freak eye injury is ‘cruel and distressing’. However, he felt that sunglasses may have saved him.
Boucher had to undergo three hours of surgery on a “laceration” to the white of the left eyeball on Monday night after being struck by a bail on Day One of the Proteas’ tour match at Taunton.
The incident occurred when a ball from spinner Imran Tahir clean bowled Gemaal Hussain, with Boucher standing up to the stumps and wearing a cap instead of a helmet.
He immediately hit the ground and was helped from the pitch with blood apparently coming from his eye. The 35-year-old was due to return home after being released from hospital on Tuesday.
“When any sportsperson is forced to retire ahead of their time it is sad, but the sudden and serious nature of Mark Boucher’s injury is particularly cruel and distressing. First and foremost we have to hope that he gets his sight back in the affected eye and makes as full a recovery as possible,” Stewart wrote in his column for BBC.
Boucher’s eye injury was just unfortunate. “Quite rightly, there are regulations in place in junior cricket that ’keepers must wear helmets for their own safety. But anyone saying Mark should have been wearing a helmet is speaking with the benefit of hindsight. Who is to say the ball wouldn’t have gone through the visor and struck him in the eye?
“Sunglasses may have saved him, but this is a horribly unfortunate injury and a very sad end to what’s been a wonderful career.”
From a cricketing point of view, Stewart said Boucher was a fine servant of the international game. “Mark will be renowned around the world as a fine servant to the international game. Along with Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, and Shaun Pollock he has been at the heart of the South Africa team since they came back into international cricket.
“You don’t stay in a side like South Africa if you are not a top-class player. His glovework was excellent and he was a great fighter with the bat. He scored valuable runs and used to get South Africa out of trouble on numerous occasions coming in at number seven,” Stewart wrote.
Tsolekile replaces Mark Boucher
South Africa have called up wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile for their tour of England following the retirement of Boucher. Tsolekile, 31, will join the squad ahead of the three-Test series but is unlikely to play in the opening match, starting at The Oval next week after coach Gary Kirsten claimed AB de Villiers would initially take over the gloves.