Boucher set for ODI return?
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Mark Boucher (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Veteran Mark Boucher could be a big beneficiary from new Proteas limited-overs captain AB de Villiers’s broken-hand misfortune
in the Twenty20 Champions League.
It has been confirmed by Cricket South Africa that batsman/wicketkeeper De Villiers fractured his right hand in training with Bangalore Royal Challengers on Wednesday.
With the opening fixture of Australia’s tour here just over a fortnight away - a T20 international at Newlands on October 13 - De Villiers is presumably in significant doubt for the early part of the Aussie challenge, which is one-day focused before the two-Test series gets under way.
“AB’s injury will be assessed by CSA’s team of hand specialists as soon as he returns home,” Proteas team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee said in a statement.
“This will give us an exact indication of the treatment and rehabilitation required and the length of time that he will be out of action.
“At this stage we can only make a call about his availability for the series against Australia once the specialists have assessed his injury.”
Should De Villiers, who was scheduled to make his debut as full-time captain of South Africa in both the T20 and ODI fare against Australia after Graeme Smith’s retirement from these arenas as skipper, be ruled out for the initial part of the series, there seems every chance that the Proteas will call on Boucher - holder of 292 ODI and 25 T20I caps - to fill the void behind the stumps.
Although he was referring more specifically to Test plans at the time, coach Gary Kirsten significantly said in a recent interview with this writer: “From what I’ve seen and what I know, Mark Boucher is the best wicketkeeper in the country.”
So it would be a surprise, frankly, if Kirsten and company opted for anyone else for the gloveman chore in the limited-overs internationals against another top-tier nation.
Hashim Amla is the designated vice-captain of South Africa now, and logically will presumably be given first right to take over De Villiers’s mantle in that respect if necessary.
But it may not be that straightforward because the bearded run-getter makes no secret of his preference for being a “number two” than the actual leader.
He told The Hindu newspaper in India earlier this year, for instance: “I prefer as far as possible to stay out of the limelight and that’s why the vice-captaincy position suits me better.”
In the event that Amla opts to stay as deputy, it could thus also open the way for gritty off-spinner Johan Botha, the impressive Warriors captain at the Champions League, to return to leadership of his country temporarily.
He led the Proteas to a praiseworthy ODI series triumph on the country’s last tour Down Under three seasons ago, after Smith returned home through injury immediately after the Test series.
But this is also not clear-cut because Botha is no longer considered an automatic choice, with such customers as Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson making impressive strides in the spin department for the Proteas at the last World Cup.
Kirsten could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.