South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher forced to retire

 

South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher has retired from international cricket following the eye injury he suffered during yesterday's tour game against Somerset.

The 35-year-old required three hours of surgery in Taunton last night and, after being released this morning, it was initially confirmed he would leave the tour.

But, in a prepared statement read out by his Proteas skipper Graeme Smith during lunch at the tour game today, it was revealed the injury had forced Boucher 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 read by Smith said.

Boucher revealed that he had intended to retire at the end of the current tour, when he was due to play his 150th Test in the final match of the upcoming series against England.

"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.

"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 have a number of thank-yous to make to people who have made significant contributions during my international career, which I will do in due course.

"For now, I would like to thank the huge number of people, many of whom are strangers, for their heartfelt support during the last 24 hours.

"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."

Boucher suffered the freak injury when he was struck by a flying bail while standing up to leg-spinner Imran Tahir on the opening day against Somerset.

He fell the ground and was helped from the pitch with blood apparently coming from his left eye.

Boucher was taken to hospital immediately, where he had surgery to repair a laceration to the white of his eyeball, but concerns clearly remain over his long-term health.

The extent of the damage to Boucher's eye will be assessed on his return to South Africa with the veteran - who is the record-holder for most Test dismissals - set to fly out on the earliest possible fight.

His eye was still too swollen today for a long-term prognosis about the possible effects on his sight.

"It's not about cricket any more. I hope he recovers fully," team-mate Jacques Kallis said in an interview on Sky Sports News.

"It has been a tough 24 hours not only for myself, but his family and team-mates.

"He seems in good spirits. He has all our well-wishes and from people around the world."

South Africa's team management announced that De Villiers would replace Boucher behind the stumps in the first Investec Test at the Oval next week, but a longer-term replacement would eventually be called.

Smith had a personal statement for his long-time team-mate, saying: "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.

"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.

"We all know how much he has meant to us as a person, but his stats speak for themselves. I think he was in line to achieve his 150th Test match, his 1,000th dismissal in the game, so many other world records and stats that went with that.

"If you add that to the type of person he was, he will go down as one of the greats of the game, certainly one of the greats in South African cricket.

"I think now we are just more worried about Mark the person, and getting him through this situation."

South Africa team doctor Mohammad Moosajee said earlier: "Mark's surgery, which lasted nearly three hours, showed that he sustained a severe eye injury - and although the surgeon was able to repair the eyeball, the sensitive nature of the injury makes it difficult to determine the extent of the long-term damage.

"At the moment the prognosis is unclear.

"We need to remain as positive as we possibly can. We will only know (the extent of the damage) in a few weeks' time.

"I spent the night with him in the recovery ward at the hospital, and he has been overwhelmed by the messages of support and care he has received from all corners of the world.

"He will take no further part in the series against England and will return back to South Africa as soon as possible."

Among those who have voiced their concern and support from afar for Boucher are England players Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior - via their Twitter accounts.

Boucher's fellow wicketkeeper Prior wrote this morning: "Just seen the news about markb46.

"Very sad he's missing the series and hope he makes a full and speedy recovery. Go well mate £keepersunion."

Boucher may be replaced by the versatile De Villiers, who has previously provided cover behind the stumps in both Tests and one-day internationals - although South Africa may wish to send for specialist Thami Tsolekile.

South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald was distraught for his former team-mate.

"He wanted to finish here. He's been talking about maybe going, if needed, to Australia - but he wanted to go out on a real high in England," Donald told Sky Sports News.

"I can't think of a bigger kick in the teeth than that.

"To happen on the first day is a cruel blow. Let's just hope he is going to be okay and take it from there."

PA

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