No wicketkeeper in history has taken more Test dismissals than Proteas legend and current head coach of the national side, Mark Boucher.
In fact, nobody has come close.
Boucher, with 555 dismissals in the format, is followed by Australia's Adam Gilchrist with 416.
That should be enough to make Boucher the obvious choice whenever a conversation around South Africa's greatest ever wicketkeeper arises, but the arrival and overwhelming talent of a certain Quinton de Kock means it isn't that simple.
There are a lot of factors at play, and the format is obviously one of those, but for the purpose of this exercise we will ask one simple question: "If you could only have one, regardless of format, who would it be? Boucher or De Kock?"
Our two scribes, Sibusiso Mjikeliso (Boucher) and Lloyd Burnard (De Kock), make their cases!
As always, this is a light-hearted exercise based on opinion, so there will be many different theories about who is better and why.
You can let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @Sport24news or mailing as at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because there are so many elements to this debate, we have broken down the argument into different categories. Enjoy!
Mjikeliso - If it wasn’t for a menacing bail that flew into his left eye during an innocuous warm up match on South Africa’s tour to England in 2012, Boucher would have finished with a staggering 1 000 international dismissals. Instead, he finished just two short, on 998. Still, that is no slight on his achievements behind the stumps. Boucher elevated the wicketkeeping game in the way Jonty Rhodes elevated fielding. It was an art form. No matter who was bowling, Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini or Dale Steyn, they knew, as sure as eggs is eggs, that Boucher would take the cherry safely after it licked the batsman’s blade.
Burnard - Boucher's record speaks for itself. He is one of the best wicketkeepers to have ever played the game, but a closer look at De Kock's numbers are revealing too. In Test cricket, De Kock averages 2.404 dismissals per innings to Boucher's 1.975. In fact, no wicketkeeper in the history of Test cricket who has taken 50 wickets or more betters that return. De Kock's freakish hand/eye coordination make him a huge asset behind the stumps, and he has taken some blinders along the way in all formats. He is as solid a wicketkeeper as anyone presently.
Mjikeliso - He was probably five centuries short in the Test arena, and four shy in One Days, but there was no No 7 that could steer the tail better than Boucher during his 15-year Proteas career. He never tried to be something he was not. Playing during the era of knockout artist Adam Gilchrist and the classy Kumar Sangakkara – and later MS Dhoni – Boucher never tried to manufacture his batting to mimic his flashier opponents. Instead, he got to the crease and stuck to the task of taking SA home or to post a competitive total.
Burnard - This is where, for me, De Kock will always be a more attractive option in any side. As gritty and capable as Boucher was with the bat, De Kock is simply on another level. Whether it is opening in white ball cricket or coming in lower down in Tests, De Kock possesses an ability to take the game away from opposition attacks almost at will. He remains South Africa's most valuable batting asset presently, and he will be for some time to come. If the Proteas are to achieve any success in the future, De Kock scoring runs will surely be key.
Mjikeliso - From about 1998 to when Jacques Kallis retired, the Proteas had some big characters in the dressing room but none more so than Boucher. Maybe sometimes he was overbearing on new players and ones of brittle spirit but there were times when he willed the Proteas across the line in tough confrontations against the world’s best cricketing sides.That he seamlessly transitioned into coaching despite not going for formal coaching training is a testament to the natural leadership gifts he possessed.
Burnard - He has been handed the captaincy in the limited overs sides, which says a lot about how respected De Kock is amongst his peers. Those who have played with him will tell you of a cricketing intelligence that few can match, and there were elements of that seen in the way he handled proceedings this summer against England and Australia. He does not overcomplicate things and is always a presence of calm. Most importantly, De Kock leads by example through his performance. He is a leader who is inclusive, making real efforts with the younger, less experienced members of the set-up that go a long way.
Mjikeliso - To say he had a monumental role in the historic "438 game" would be sport’s biggest truism. But I’ll say it anyway. We all know he hit the winning runs against Australia at the Wanderers that famous day in 2006 but, prior to that, he came in with the Proteas on 299/4, still needing 136 to beat Australia's 434 and played a measured innings. He was so calm he outlasted Jacques Kallis at the crease, whose game was tailor-made to rescue SA from sticky situations. From the 32nd over all the way to the second last ball of the match, Boucher (50 not out) stayed stubbornly, amid five more wickets that fell at the other end, and landed the place.
Burnard - This is an area where even the very best South African cricketers have struggled. Because we all know how naturally gifted De Kock is, more is always expected of him. The Proteas at last year's 2019 World Cup, for example, desperately needed De Kock to set the tournament alight when things were going badly and that didn't happen. The good news is that he has responded well to leadership and the hope is that, as he gets older, De Kock will start delivering more match-winning performances for South Africa in the games that matter most.
Mjikeliso - He is easily South Africa’s greatest wicketkeeper of any generation and it’s not even close. He was a student of Bob Woolmer’s innovative coaching when he first began and he left the Proteas gloves in a better state than he found them. Although a World Cup trophy alluded him – and the disappointing 2003 exit probably leaving scars - there is no doubt that he played in South Africa’s best post-isolation period. If he’d had a Muttiah Muralitharan or a Shane Warne, heck even a Daniel Vettori, Boucher might have topped the stumping charts too and maybe even brought home a World Cup or two. But there is no doubt that he remains the benchmark for all wicketkeepers that will follow him.
Burnard - De Kock is still just 27, and his best years could well be ahead of him. Because there is less Test cricket being played all the time, he probably won't overtake Boucher's record. When he is finally done, however, I am convinced that De Kock will go down as one of the greats of South African cricket. And when we look at his total runs scored, combined with his contributions behind the stumps, he will have the numbers to back that up. Hopefully, by then, the Proteas will have finally bagged some long overdue silverware at either a T20 or 50-over World Cup. If that does happen, and it may seem a long shot presently, then De Kock will be a major part of the success story.