The day a goo­gly ended a ca­reer

Sleepy warm-up match brought calamity to the life of record-break­ing Proteas wick­et­keeper

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

GALLO IM­AGES

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.

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