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Behind the stumps!


Mark BoucherMost would agree the toughest job in cricket after fast bowling is wicket keeping. Squatting all day long can take a toll on one’s knees and back. So when a freak accident prevents a keeper from reaching 1000 dismissals (998 as a keeper and one catch as a fielder), becoming the highest run-getter among keepers in Tests (56 runs short of Adam Gilchrist) and the first keeper to play 150 Test matches, one can’t help but react with disappointment and sympathy.

Mark Boucher’s injury has been most unfortunate. A bail flying off the stump and into his eye is not the way he would have wanted his career to end. He was never the kind who wanted the spotlight to be on him. Even in South Africa’s epic run chase of 434 against Australia, Mark Boucher’s contribution was invaluable. Gibbs deserved the accolades he got, but Boucher did not receive his share. Most of his innings didn’t. Boucher has captured 5 ‘man of the match’ awards, but is still considered as one of the better wicket-keeper batsmen. He batted with a technique that would put some top order batsmen to shame. He always played the cover drive with a high elbow.

His wicket keeping wasn’t too flashy either. Great footwork and anticipation ensured he didn’t have to dive too often. Of course the fast bowlers and spinners he played alongside lent a helping hand. Across the three formats, Mark Boucher holds the record for the most number of times a keeper has taken 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 catches in an inning.

Catches taken / inning  Overall Runner-Up
Overall Tests ODIs T20Is
6 Catches / Inning 5 times 4 times 1 time 0 time A Gilchrist (4 times)
5 Catches / Inning 16 times 10 times 6 times 0 time R Marsh (12 times)
4 Catches / Inning 35 times 22 times 13 times 0 time A Gilchrist (33 times)
3 Catches / Inning 75 times 41 times 31 times 3 times Same as Gilchrist
2 Catches / Inning 153 times 86 times 66 times 1 time A Gilchrist (116 times)
1 Catches / Inning 171 times 75 times 89 times 7 times A Gilchrist (150 times)

Bowlers like Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Pat Symcox, Brian McMillan, Paul Adams etc. were some of the South African greats, Boucher kept too. Taking catches off ‘White Lightning’s’ bowling is never easy, but Boucher made it look effortless. Batsmen had a tough time reading Paul Adams, but Mark read him like an open book. That he was adept behind the stumps would be an understatement. On an average he helps in dismissing 1.674 batsmen per inning across three formats.

  Dismissals / Innings
Max. Dismissals / Innings
Overall 1.674 6 (6 ct, 0 st)
Tests 1.975 6 (6 ct, 0 st)
ODIs 1.462 6 (6 ct, 0 st)
T20Is 0.760 3 (3 ct, 0 st)

The 35 year old Mark Boucher will be sorely missed by South Africa and the entire cricketing world alike. SA’s first choice wicketkeeper for nearly 14 years, he held a record of hitting the fastest 50 in a World Cup for 6 days. His New Zealand counterpart broke this 21 ball record by hitting it in a ball less.

Thami Tsolikele, SA’s next choice after AB de Villiers, has some size 14 boots to fill. One must feel for the lad. Replacing someone like Boucher is never going to be easy and comparisons are bound to crop up. Hopefully, instead of succumbing to the pressure, Thami can rise to the challenge. After all, if he wants to better Boucher, all he has to do is score 5516 runs in Tests, 4,687 in ODIs, 269 in T20s and have 999 dismissals to his name by the time he retires. It sounds easy enough.

Well played Mark Boucher. Get well soon!

Stats by: Karna Yajnik

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