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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Freak eye injury forces retirement of Mark Boucher

The South African Tour of England has claimed a player - Thami Tsolekile, the Lions wicketkeeper,  has replaced the great keeper  Mark Boucher.  The replacement was necessitated by Boucher’s retirement  from cricket, following a severe eye injury sustained during the tour match against Somerset in Taunton. Boucher was struck by a bail and had to undergo surgery for a lacerated eyeball.

Mark Boucher,  a quality batsman is the leader when it comes to wicket-keeping dismissals.  His stumped victims are far less indicative of the nature of the attack that South Africa have possessed for much of his career, sadly the odd spinner did his undoing.   Boucher had to leave the field at the end of the 46th over of Somerset's innings on Monday when a googly from Imran Tahir hit the stumps and a dislodged bail struck Boucher in the left eye. He underwent a surgery and faces an "uncertain recovery".  Couple of days later in a statement read out by Graeme Smith, Boucher said: "It is with sadness, and in some pain, that I make this announcement. Due to the severity of my eye injury, I will not be able to play international cricket again.
the rare action  which he was not required to
Mark Boucher bowling - photo courtesy

Smith who had been his mate for many years paid rich tributes to his skills, both on the field and off it, motivating, inspiring and energizing the team.  This tour to England was set to be his final duty for South Africa and the Lord's Test would have been his 150th appearance. Boucher will end on 998 international dismissals, including 555 from 147 Tests, which is a record. He also took a catch in the field against West Indies when AB de Villiers was keeping.

The extent of the injury was described as severe and the eyeball (globe of the eye) reportedly  was repaired during the operation – so a sad end to long illustrious career of Mark Verdon Boucher, born in 1976.  besides his 998 victims, he scored 5515 runs in 147 tests and 4686 in 295 One dayers – age was catching up and he would have retired sooner, but to leave in this fashion is indeed unfortunate.

That was to be Imran Tahir’s first wicket of the tour -  the resulting flying bail caused something far more serious than just broken stumps. Boucher went down immediately and there was no team celebration. Instead, the eleven closed in to see an unfamiliar clear fluid coming out of his eye. The medical staff spent a few minutes treating Boucher pitch-side before they were ready to take him off the field, but after a few steps, he stumbled. Dizziness had already set in.  Hours later, the Team Manager who doubles as  Doctor, Moosajee looked grim as he announced the serious nature of the injury.  "We are concerned with Mark Boucher the patient and not the cricketer," he said.  In a show of solidarity, the squad went to the hospital and waited as Boucher went into surgery and came out three hours later.

Freak accidents are part of the game and the players are aware of such dangers.  Do you recall that an Indian suffered a similar fare – it was Syed Saba Karim, the Indian wicket keeper, who sustained eye injury in an unusual mishap at Dhaka during the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh in May 2000.   He was rushed to Shankar Netralaya, a well known hospital in Chennai, underwent surgery on the affected right eye, endured an extended treatment period became fit, but was perhaps never the same thereafter.   Hemang Badani, made his debut in that match.  Anil Kumble though bowling quicker went wicketless though he could beat the batsmen for pace.  Unfortunately one of those deliveries beat wicketkeeper Saba Karim ending up smacking his face.   It was revealed to be a serious eye injury subsequently.

There is some good news in so far as Boucher may regain sight according to his surgeon, Shuaib Manjra, in Cape Town.  Sunday Times reports that there was no obvious detachment of the retina which is very positive. Boucher can recognise hand movements and identify the direction of light in the injured eye but will still have to undergo more exploratory surgery and months of other procedures to determine the exact severity of the damage and make a recovery.  It is too early to tell if Boucher will play cricket again, although there have been suggestions that he is interested in representing his franchise, Cape Cobras. Meanwhile, the South African Cricketers' Association has begun the process of assisting Boucher in claiming disability insurance.

Disability insurance cover protects the ability to earn over an extended period of time.  When the playing capacity is curtailed  either through disability or through impairment, the cover provides monetary support.  While impairment would imply a physical or functional disorder, disability would imply the inability to earn the income as a professional.

Elsewhere,   Tatenda Taibu, the Zimbabwe wicketkeeper-batsman, retired  stating that he wants to focus on working for the church. Taibu played 28 Tests and 150 ODIs for Zimbabwe and has quit aged only 29, usually a cricketer's prime. It ends an 11-year international career, during which he became the youngest Test captain in history.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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