Mark Boucher is a feisty competitor that didn’t mind getting stuck into his opponents, or his own teammates for that matter, and crucially shares an aberration for the English.
Johannesburg – In another world Mark Boucher may have been Australian.
A feisty competitor that didn’t mind getting stuck into his opponents, or his own teammates for that matter, and crucially shares an aberration for the English.
“I love beating the English,” Boucher once confirmed with zeal in an interview. “It’s a rivalry I’ve grown up with.”
On the basis of Boucher’s combative style one might think he viewed cricket matches against the ‘The Rooinekke’ (Red Necks) as still being in the trenches during the Anglo-Boer War such was his distaste of the English.
Boucher loved and hated touring England in equal measures though. He enjoyed the knowledgeable crowds and their appreciation for high-quality Test cricket.
However, he had precious little time for the media hounds of Fleet Street and the Sky cameras that had the capability to create a story out of virtually nothing. There are few countries in the world where a visiting player’s technique and temperament are scrutinised so intensely.
The Guardian’s weekly cricket newsletter, The Spin, used to refer to him as “an irritant, a provocateur, vociferous and uncharitable.”
It was, however, an attitude that earned the respect of England’s finest though, with former captain Nasser Hussain, who is cut from a similar cloth, wrote of Boucher saying “he is a tough competitor, the sort of bloke you want on your side.”
Overall he went into battle against “The Auld Enemy” in 25 Tests (14 in England and 11 in South Africa), 32 One-Day Internationals and four T20Is across the span of his 15-year international career.
During this period he tasted the bitterness of defeat in 1998, the sweetness of victory in 2008 and also the heartache of 2012.
Each time he was a central figure in the final outcome. Very much a rookie in his maiden season of international cricket, it was Boucher that dropped Hussain off Allan Donald on an epic Sunday at Trent Bridge.
Only 22-years-old, Boucher was caught in the eye of one of the most gripping sessions in Test cricket’s history with Donald’s veins virtually popping out of his neck during his volcanic-like duel with Michael Atherton.
The #Proteas are in action against the England Lions in a 50-over warm-up match 🏏
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) July 12, 2022
The Proteas ultimately lost the Nottingham Test – with Atherton guiding his team home – and the series.
Boucher had to wait 10 years for revenge when he joined his captain Graeme Smith at Headingley to guide the Proteas to their first-ever Test series win in England post-isolation.
And it was all set to end in a blaze of glory four years later with Boucher’s 150th and final Test pencilled in for Lord’s where the Proteas were looking to be crowned the No.1 Test side in the world.
Smith and his gallant men lifted the ICC’s golden mace at the home of cricket, but unfortunately sans Boucher whose career tragically came to an abrupt halt prior to the first Test at The Oval when a bail ricocheted into his eye during a tour game against Somerset.
Another decade on and Boucher is back in England with a Proteas team though. Only this time as the head coach.
And it’s only Mother Cricket that can formulate a script where Taunton is the first stop.
“I do have a lot of good memories from England. Obviously the last one wasn’t such a good memory. In fact it wasn’t a memory at all. I don’t remember much because I was in a bit of shock,” Boucher said.
“But these things happen in life. I am still very happy where I was in my career. I had a long career, but now coming back as a coach it is a completely different feeling.
“It’s now about guiding the guys and using my knowledge of all the tours I have been on and giving them the best opportunity to win a series.
“I know how special it is to win a series. I’ve been through a loss, I’ve been through a draw, and been through a win. It’s an incredible achievement to beat England in England. It’s a tough series. It’s a tough place to tour. It’s a nice place to tour.
“There have been a lot of good times, a few bad times but I look at it as a completely different package now as a coach. I come here quite excited to see how these guys can be tested in a very competitive cricket environment.”
The Proteas start their two-month long tour with a couple of warm-up games against the England Lions before the ODI series next week.