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Boucher 'unlikely' to play in the 'near future'

Firdose Moonda
August 8, 2012 « Cissokho angling for England move | Chartbeat test »
"This is just another challenge in my life and something that I will be working to overcome", Mark Boucher said © Getty Images
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Mark Boucher, former South Africa wicketkeeper, has said that it is "unlikely" he will play professional cricket in the near future as the healing process to his left eye continues. Boucher's eyeball was lacerated last month on the first day of South Africa's tour to England, when a bail ricocheted off the stumps and hit him during the tour match against Somerset in Taunton.

He was forced to move his intended retirement, which he had planned after the Lord's Test, forward and returned home to South Africa to begin treatment. Boucher underwent one operation in England followed up by five more procedures in Cape Town.

Although it was initially reported that he could pick up movement and detect light with the injured eye and he was hopeful of making a return at franchise or amateur level, Boucher's cricket playing days seem over, for the foreseeable future at least.

"I have lost the lens, iris and pupil in my left eye. There was severe damage to my retina. I have had two major operations and four blood draining operations in the past three weeks and physically, at times, I have been in a lot of pain," Boucher said at his first press conference since the incident, at Newlands, where he also revealed how much his life had changed in recent weeks.

"It does get uncomfortable at times and being a sportsman, I want to be active and outdoors but, without a pupil, I find any amount of sunlight very harsh and have thus been restricted to the confines of my home. It is unlikely that I will play any professional cricket again in the near future, which is very unfortunate as I was looking forward to contributing as a player for the Cobras. The risk of additional damage to my left eye or even damage to the other eye, doesn't warrant it."

Having already considered the end of his career before the tour to England, Boucher had future projects in the works some of which have now been fast-forwarded. He has invested in his "passion for wildlife" with South African Breweries and launched the SAB Boucher Non-Profit Company, which aims to help fund the fight against rhino poaching in Africa.

Boucher has been vocal in his support for saving the rhino, which has come under severe threat in recent years. More than 900 rhinos have been killed across Africa in the last three years and the species is facing extinction in some areas. Boucher and team-mates past and present, such as Paul Harris, Dale Steyn and Justin Kemp, took part in a conservation event at the end of June to raise awareness for the rhino and Boucher's involvement will continue through his new foundation.

He has also started a wine-label with long-time friend Jacques Kallis. The wine, called the Innings, went on shelves in South African stores last weekend and reported good sales. Kallis also had the label stuck on his bat and pointed to it in celebration, along with gesturing to his eye, after his century at the Oval.

Boucher's role in the Test XI has been taken up by AB de Villiers in the interim which has allowed South Africa to play the extra batsmen in JP Duminy. Wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile is expected to eventually take over as Boucher's permanent replacement.

Boucher has been monitoring the on-going series between South Africa and England and tweeting his thoughts. He has also been in contact with the squad and captain Graeme Smith hinted that they would seek Boucher's advice on occasions, given the experience he gained over the years and the fighting way he approached the game.

That fight lives on in Boucher and his parting words to the media were ones of hope, despite his current circumstances.

"I don't want people to feel sorry for me. Injuries happen and this could have happened earlier on in my career. I am incredibly grateful for the length of career that I have had and the amazing things I have experienced and people I have met during that time. This is just another challenge in my life and something that I will be working to overcome."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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