Farewell, Mark 999 Poucher...
A tribute to one of the greatest wicket-keepers who ruled the roost.
- Five footed and flashy wick(et)-pocketer.
- The unfortunate warrior
- The crouching assassin
- 999 - Now, one dismissal and one eye short.
- Wicket Keepers and Mark Boucher
Five footed and flashy wick(et)-pocketer.
He came storming in with his face fiercer than his run-up. Fine leg was up and the batsman was scouting for easy runs behind the wicket. A short ball drifting down the leg prompts him to have a go at it. A flash of white behind the stumps and two seconds later, Allan Donald and Mark Boucher are seen hugging each other. Replays show the ball cradled safely in the webbing of Boucher’s glove.
After Dave Richardson hung up his boots, South Africa was scouting for a replacement when a certain Mark Boucher raised his hand and donned the glove. A short man with a stocky frame, Boucher showed why appearances could be deceptive. Be it behind the stumps or in front of it, Boucher oozed authority and confidence. It didn’t matter if the scorecard read 202/3 or 52/5, nor did it make a difference if the Proteas were chasing 189 or 434. Be it pressure of chasing or hostility of frenzied foreign crowds, Boucher came out to the pitch unfazed by what surrounded him with a job in hand. He had gifted arms with powerful wrists. Like any other good keeper, he withstood the numerous bruises that his fingers sustained without much ado. All in a day’s work, they say.
The unfortunate warrior
Though Boucher has been such an asset for the team playing down the order, his position hampered him from making the big scores in ODIs. If the team got off to a flyer, his role was to finish the innings in style. If the team were left reeling due to a collective top order failure, Boucher was the gel that held the tail together. Fans expected much more than the half a dozen ODI hundreds that the keeper has to his name. Adding to the long list of lower order batsmen like Michael Bevan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mark Boucher hence sacrificed the big scores for the ‘Finisher’ tag that fit him to the tee.
The crouching assassin
Just as how he lifted the weight off the shoulders of greats like Hanse Cronje and Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher made life a bed of roses for the likes of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn. Their job was just to cajole a nick out of the batter. Boucher took care of the rest. He was notorious for his habit of disturbing the stumps. The batsmen feared to dance down the track to go for glory because there was always Boucher breathing down their neck. He gave the popping crease a new meaning. He pinned them down. It almost became the Lakshman Rekha that batsmen hesitated to cross. Such was his dominance behind the stumps.
Though Adam Gilchrist was arguably the most prolific Wicket Keeper batsmen among his contemporaries, critics have their reasons for backing Boucher as the better Keeper of the two. Some say it was because he made keeping look so easy, some laud his technique and feet movement while some watch in awe the amount of ground he covers on both sides of the batsman. If Rahul Dravid built a wall in front of the three sticks, Boucher built a wall behind them and filled it with rubber pouches with webbed lids. He loved the first slips too much to let them do any sort of catching – he wanted to pocket everything within his reach himself. Byes were deemed taboo when he kept wickets.
999 - Now, one dismissal and one eye short.
Very regularly, Irony brings to light the lighter side of cruel incidents. On Tuesday, Mark Boucher understood the concept of role reversal. The bails did the honours to the keeper and returned him the favour he had been doing them for the past decade – plucked his eye. The ball could have very easily kicked off the pitch and spun a bit more to beat the batsman and produce a nick or a stumping. Boucher would have stolen yet another wicket. But the ball had other intentions. As Boucher walked off the field bleeding, little did he know that it would be his last walk back.
Wicket Keepers and Mark Boucher
There are those who field with pads and gloves. And there are those who crouch, rise and strafe behind the stumps, man the V behind the wicket, share a light moment with first slips, have eyes that bore through batsmen and have pouches for gloves and lids for webbings. Mark Boucher was a livewire behind wickets who impressed with his electrifying keeping. He, along with Gilchrist made the world look up to wicket-keepers.
Mark Poucher, It is not your retirement that bereaves us. Champions come, champions go. It is the way your career had to end, that pines us fans. You gave us happy moments, stunning catches, unbelievable finishes. Though it is impossible for us fans to repay you in kind, it is only fitting that we give back our unwavering loyalty and undiminished support as always. We will miss your keeping, your hitting and most importantly, your presence in the vicinity of the 22 yards. Here’s to one of the greediest wick(et)-pocketers ever to have guarded the stumps!