The day a googly ended a career
Sleepy warm-up match brought calamity to the life of record-breaking Proteas wicketkeeper
looked down at my glove, my white inner glove, expecting to see blood. When it came away without any red I tried to figure out what had happened. It didn’t make any sense.
I saw some clear mucus on the glove, but I couldn’t work out where it came from. I couldn’t see anything out of the eye. The first sense of panic started, but it was from the fear of the unknown. When you are injured the first things you want to know are diagnosis and prognosis. I wanted our physiotherapist Brandon Jackson or Doc Moose ( Dr Mohammed Moosajee) to run out and say, “It’s a cut, you’ll need stitches, but you’ll be OK”.
Something serious had happened, and I was scared and confused. My world was shrinking – I could only see half of it. AB de Villiers was fielding at cover ried off. They took me upstairs, removed my pads and put shoes on me. My eyes were closed the whole time. They put me into a wheelchair and took me to the hospital. I still didn’t open my eyes. I was too scared and didn’t know what to expect. I was in bad shock. I didn’t want to think – or couldn’t.
In the last few moments before I left the ground, I’d heard a couple of people in the crowd say “Hope you get well soon, Mark”. It didn’t sink in straightaway, but, as I lay on my back, in the hours before the surgery, I knew it was all over. There had been something in the tone of those voices. It was done. I knew there were major issues ahead. Although I clung to an outside hope that it might not be as bad as I feared, I knew deep down that it was finished – the tour, at the very least. But if the tour was over, what else was there? My dream for the coming six months had been to finish international cricket on my terms and then to make a contribution for the Cape Cobras. Everything was over. I didn’t know for sure, but I knew.
I arrived at the hospital and was given a sedative. I was numb with shock and fear. Bizarrely, the doctor, Jonathan Rossiter, turned out to be from East London. He was calm, reassuring and professional. If only we hadn’t been chatting in those circumstances.
He explained that it was a serious situation. “We are going to operate,” he said, “but we can’t do it yet because you have just had lunch, so we need six hours for that to settle. We are going to go in and see what we can do.” Then he said: “You must understand it is very serious. I have to be honest with you… I don’t think you are ever going to see out of the eye again.”
It was almost a relief to hear the words. All those fears were present in my thoughts. To hear them confirmed was a weight off my mind. I signed the papers I needed to sign and he said they would fix me up as best they could and send me back to Cape Town to see what the specialists there would say.
When he left, I was truly on my own for the first time, and I was broken. I was crying. For the first half an hour I didn’t know what to think; it was like I was staring at myself through tunnel vision. Where do I go from here? Everything I had known in my adult life was gone.
Doc Moosajee was outside going through the logistics and signing a mass of forms for me, as I couldn’t do it. It helped a lot that he was there, but it didn’t change the feeling of helplessness. Wayne Bentley and Riaan Müller were outside, too. They are great men – real unsung, backroom heroes. But there was nothing they could do for me.
I lay very still for around half an hour, eyes still closed but with tears pouring down my cheeks. This cannot be happening to me, I thought. Yes, it can. It has happened.
END OF AN ERA: The fateful moment when Proteas wicketkeeper Mark Boucher was hit on the left eye by a bail during a friendly match between Somerset and South Africa on July 9, last year in Taunton, England.