South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher is to return home after suffering an eye injury during the first day of the Proteas’ tour opener against English county Somerset, his team confirmed yesterday.
The 35-year-old had to undergo surgery on a “laceration” to the white of the left eyeball on Monday night after being struck by a bail on day one of the Proteas’ tour match at Taunton.
“Mark Boucher will be returning home from the tour. Selectors will name a replacement in due course. Thank you all for your positive thoughts,” Cricket South Africa said on Twitter.
A Cricket South Africa spokeswoman later confirmed that Boucher’s replacement on the tour would be named today.
The incident occurred when a ball from spinner Imran Tahir clean bowled Gemaal Hussain, with Boucher stood up to the stumps and wearing a cap instead of a helmet.
He immediately hit the ground and was helped from the pitch with blood apparently coming from his eye.
South Africa team manager Mohammed Moosajee revealed that Boucher’s hopes of playing the remainder of what could have been his final international tour were over, but also that there were wider health concerns.
“The extent of the eye injury can be described as severe. The eyeball [globe of the eye] was repaired during the operation,” Moosajee said. “The long-term prognosis at this stage remains unknown. He is definitely out of the series and will return home as soon as able to travel.”
Boucher’s place behind the stumps was filled by A.B. de Villiers, who has kept wicket in international matches for South Africa.
On Monday, Moosajee, explaining the extent of the damage done to Boucher, said: “It is a significant injury.”
“Mark sustained a direct blow to the left eye, which resulted in a laceration to the white part. It is what we call an eyeball rupture,” he said. “The ophthalmic surgeon had a look at him at the Accident and Emergency Unit, and decided that he needed to undergo exploratory surgery to identify the extent of the damage. He will need a general anesthetic, so there has to be a six-hour gap since he last ate a meal. That means the operation will be performed at about 7pm [on Monday]. After the operation we will talk to the surgeon again.”
“With eye injuries one cannot make predictions,” Moosajee said. “From a medical point of view, a lot depends on whether there is damage to the retina, which allows us to see and focus.”
Boucher has been a mainstay of the South Africa side for 15 years, appearing in 147 Tests and becoming the first wicketkeeper to take 500 catches in Test cricket. He has also scored five centuries.
South Africa’s selectors may now have to call up specialist wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, even if De Villiers continues behind the stumps.
South Africa fast bowling great turned bowling coach Allan Donald said former teammate Boucher had been looking forward to a series where the Proteas hope to wrest the world No. 1 Test ranking from England..
“He wanted to finish here,” Donald told Sky Sports. “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 OK.”