London, July 10: A freak eye injury forced South Africa’s veteran wicketkeeper Mark Boucher to end his international cricket career, it was announced Tuesday.
The 35-year-old Boucher, who suffered the eye injury during Monday’s tour game against Somerset, had to undergo a three hour eye surgery in Taunton. He was released Tuesday morning, when he decided to leave the tour.
In a prepared statement read out by skipper Graeme Smith during the lunch session of the tour game Tuesday, Boucher said he has decided to end his international career.
“It is with sadness and pain that I announce that I will not be able to play international cricket again,” the statement said.
Boucher said he had plans to retire at the end of the current tour, during which he was slated to play his 150th Test. The final match of the upcoming series would have been his 150th Test.
“It is with sadness and in some pain that I make this announcement, but due to the severity of my eye injury I will not be able to play international cricket again,” Boucher said.
“I prepared for this UK tour as well, if not better, than I have prepared for any tour in my career. I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now but circumstances have dictated differently.
“I am deeply touched by all the well wishes, and I wish the team well in the UK as I head home on to a road of uncertain recovery,” he said.
Boucher suffered the injury when he was struck by a flying bail that came off legspinner Imran Tahir’s delivery. Boucher immediately fell on the ground and blood was apparently coming from his left eye.
He was rushed to hospital, where he had to undergo surgery to repair a laceration to the white of his eyeball. But the extent of the damage will be assessed after he returns to South Africa.
Boucher, who holds the record for most Test dismissals, will fly back by the earliest possible fight.
A.B. De Villiers will be replacing Boucher behind the stumps in the first Test at the Oval next week.
But the team management has plans for getting a longer term wicket-keeper.
Smith also read out a statement for Boucher.
“Bouch, we have walked a long road together, and we are saddened to part under these circumstances. For the 14 years of your international career, you have been a true Proteas warrior, a patriotic South African, a fighter who asks nothing and gives everything.
“You have been a 100 percenter for this team. You have been more than a performer, you have been a motivator, an inspirer, an energiser and a good friend to many. You leave us today with sad hearts, but also with a deep gratitude for your contributions to our team, and to us as people,” said Smith.
Smith said Boucher’s fighting spirit was unmatched.
“The fighting spirit you brought to team remains with us. We wish you a good as possible recovery from your injury. As we bid you a farewell as an international cricketer and wish you well for your future, we keep you as a friend and respected Proteas warrior.