|Mark Boucher (Photo credit: Zynx)
You will be missed sorely by cricket lovers around the world. It's crazy to think that you started your international career while Ian Healy was still keeping wicket for Australia. Your passion, commitment and understated demeanour made you loved by fans of the game.
The horrific freak injury you suffered at Taunton was the worst possible way to end such a distinguished career. Everyone hoped you would end with 150 caps at Lord's.
While the overwhelming feeling is one of sadness, no thanks is complete without remembering some great moments that you provided for us. Hitting these winning runs in one of the greatest one-day international matches ever played can never be forgotten. Your lovely cameos in the 99 World Cup are often over-shadowed by Lance Klusener's all-round brilliance at that tournament. You played a courageous knock in Mumbai on a turning pitch to guide South Africa to their first test series victory in India in 2000, only for that tour to be remembered for Hansie Cronje's match-fixing. Many of us cried with you in 2003, when a horrible Duckworth-Lewis miscalculation meant South Africa were knocked out of the World Cup. You hit a fantastic unbeaten 45 at Headingley in 2008 under enormous pressure in the company of your captain Graeme Smith, to win South Africa's first series in England since re-admission.
You have taken many brilliant catches, and made many difficult catches look easy. You rarely ever fluffed a chance. Despite the dearth of quality spinners in South African cricket, you kept brilliantly to spin and made many a smart stumping. Regardless of the conditions, you barely let any byes past you. There is no better testament to your wicket-keeping prowess than the 998 international dismissals you have affected.
The praise of your cricketing achievements would require many more paragraphs and many fine editorials have been written in your honour. There are so many intangibles that are just as important to your legacy.
Thank you Mark for being an ambassador to the game of cricket. For being a rock in an extremely difficult phase for South African cricket from 2000 to 2003. For the insatiable desire to win, and for confounding critics and overcoming the various absurd selection policies that Cricket South Africa came up with, which could have ended the career of many a mortal sportsman. For playing a role in Donald and Pollock tearing opposition batting line-ups, and then bridging the generation gap, by playing the same role helping Steyn and Morkel dismantle the best batting orders in the world.
Most importantly Mark Verdon Boucher, thank you for that great smile, never-say-die attitude, sportsmanship and respect towards opponents even in the heat of battle. Time heals all wounds, and I hope that in time, you like many of us, can appreciate the fact that a career spanning 147 test matches is truly a great innings!
A Cricket Connoisseur