“Horrible, mean and undeserved” says Neil Manthorp about the freak accident and the “fatal” consequences it had on Mark Boucher’s career. Nobody in his or her right minds will differ from Manthorp.
The magnitude of Boucher has everyone and sundry in agreement that his career should not have ended in any other way than voluntary retirement.
The matter of voluntary retirement is however contentious. Many simply believe Boucher should have retired a few years ago.
The “suits who systematically doubted his worth to the national team now issuing statements of respect and appreciation”, as Manthorp puts it, should not irritate Boucher at all.
Very few critics, and I am one, doubt the brilliance of Boucher. We agree on two key aspects: Boucher is probably the best wicket keeper ever and he should have retired after the series against West Indies at the end of June 2010.
When the dreaded bail struck Boucher in the eye he was way past his best. Some of us question his lack of vision to retire long before the tour to the Kingdom.
Manthorp will be surprised but those who doubted Boucher’s current worth mean every word when they speak “like life-long admirers”. That is what they are. More still, they are not “blind” friends but honest ones.
Other than Manthorp’s chirp that “it is tiresome but normal for human beings to realise too late the value of what they have lost”, many would argue it is tiresome that normal human beings realise too late that they passed a time where they had something to give.
It is quite simple: At the end Boucher was not the great keeper he once was. And, he lost most of his batting abilities.
The people Manthorpe scoffs at are loyal admirers of Boucher who believe he dented his reputation by staying part of the Protea team whilst he was no longer the best keeper cum batter in the country.
Here is a something, devoid of prejudice and stubborn misguided loyalty, for Manthorp to ponder over: Against England in South Africa in 2009/2010 Boucher averaged 57. In India in February 2010 he averaged 39; In the West Indies in June 2010, 34; against Pakistan in the United Arabic Emirates in November 2010, 23; against India in South Africa in December 2010, 24; against Australia in South Africa in November 2011, 7; against Sri Lanka in South Africa in 2011/2012, 25 and in New Zealand in March 2012, 36.
After the England-series Boucher’s batting fell away. By the time India arrived the debate about his presence in the team was raging; not without reason and definitely not due to a lack of loyalty or out of hatred.
On 26 January this year Manthorp wrote Boucher going going….:
“In truth, however, he never fully recovered from the disappointment of being omitted from the ODI squad and missing last year’s World Cup, and the mounting criticism and questioning of his place in the test team may have started to wear him down. Not that he was admitting that this week – certainly not publicly.”
At the end Boucher’s keeping abilities deteriorated and he dropped a few catches that cost his team hugely.
Ironically any of those catches would have resulted in 1000 dismissals…
At least one, when he dropped MEK Hussey at a critical stage in the second test in November 2011, probably cost the Proteas a series. The Proteas lost that test with 2 wickets and the Ausies shared the series.
The same was probably the case with a missed opportunity in Durban when Boucher left an edge of Kumar Sangakkara’s bat when the Sri Lankan was on 3. Sangakkara was dropped by Smith who clearly expected Boucher to move over and take the catch. It was the keeper’s catch and Kumar went on to score 108.
So no sir, there is no malice intended when we say Boucher stayed on to long; we are simply stating an opinion based on facts.
I never enjoyed the autocratic powers of the posse of Jacques Kallis, Boucher, AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith; but I do not hate any of them. In fact they are all my heroes but other than Manthorp I am not blind for my heroes’ achievements and failures.
I echo your words: “Boucher has been reminded over the last 24 hours of how much he is respected, admired and maybe even loved. No doubt much more will be written during the course of the tour. Enough for now. Except the obvious – travel well, and get well Bouch. All the best.”