Cape Town - After his sudden departure from all forms of cricket, former South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher said he had replaced his love of cricket with his passion to save the rhino.
South Africa’s longest-serving wicketkeeper had the opportunity to say farewell to his former team-mates and his supporters during the Proteas’ second Test against Pakistan at Newlands, in Cape Town, on Saturday.
"I have faced all my demons so today was an opportunity for me to say goodbye to the fans and to the sponsors and all the people who have followed my career," Boucher said. "It’s a very special feeling to have people acknowledge my contribution to the game."
Boucher was forced to retire after he was struck in the eye by a flying bail during a warm-up game at the start of the Proteas' tour of England last year.
As a result of the freak accident, he lost the lens and iris of his left eye and said he had undergone seven or eight operations since then, to try and restore his sight. He was able to distinguish some colours and shapes but had no clarity of vision.
"It’s like looking through binoculars which are not focused. I have no lens in my eye at the moment, so it’s hard to assess the end result until I’ve had a lens implanted.
"I still have another three or four procedures to go through and, hopefully, by the end of the year I will have some vision back in my eye."
Boucher had no regrets about ending his cricket career but said he was grateful the incident happened at the end of his career and not at the beginning.
He said he was enjoying his golf far too much to miss playing cricket and had transferred his passion for the game into working towards saving the rhino.
He was working in partnership with SA Breweries to tackle the problem and their non-profit organisation aimed to raise enough funds to register South Africa’s 18 000 rhino on a DNA database. The database was crucial not only to conservation management but to help in linking suspected poachers to their crimes.
The 36-year-old played 147 Tests for South Africa scoring 5515 runs.
He made his debut at 20 against Pakistan in Sheikhpura in October 1997.
During his career, he notched up a number of world records, including most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in Tests with 555 (532 catches and 23 stumpings). His closest challengers on the all-time list were Australians Adam Gilchrist with 416 and Ian Healy on 395.
Boucher’s total number of international dismissals in all formats of the game was 998.
He scored his first of five Test centuries in his 16th Test against the West Indies in Centurion, in January 1999. His highest score of 125 came against Zimbabwe, in Harare, in November 1999.
Boucher also captained the national side for a brief period in the 2002/03 season, filling in for regular captain Shaun Pollock who was injured.