It is often hazardous to call someone a legend or a great of the game, but few would quibble that Multiply Titans coach Mark Boucher undeniably deserves the tag. In a 15-year international career as South Africa’s first-choice wicketkeeper, he set the world record for the most number of dismissals across all three formats – 999 in 147 Tests, 295 ODIs and 25 T20 Internationals. One of the gutsiest cricketers South Africa has ever produced will point out that he actually has a thousand dismissals if you count the one Test wicket he took bowling, having West Indian Dwayne Bravo caught at cover by Ashwell Prince in Antigua in 2005.
But his personality and value to the Standard Bank Proteas team go far behind the mountain of numbers and records – his nickname was ‘Guinness’ for a long period of his career – he accumulated. Boucher was at his best when the situation was most perilous and he had under-rated ability with the bat. Five Test centuries and an average of 30 doesn’t reveal his true value down the order. But he made key contributions with the bat in two of South Africa’s greatest victories – the 438 game against Australia at the Bidvest Wanderers and the famous run-chase against England at Edgbaston in 2008 which gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Utterly reliable with the gloves and the holder of the record for the most dismissals in Test history (555), Boucher’s playing career ended in 2012 in a freak incident on tour in England, when spinner Imran Tahir bowled the batsman in a warm-up game and the bail hit the wicketkeeper in his eye, damaging the retina.
But Boucher’s perspective on the game is not only shaped by this tragic end to his playing career, but also through his considerable experience of the hardships faced by young cricketers in trying to make their way, the demands of touring and an ever-expanding playing schedule.
When he was appointed as the Titans coach in August 2016, it was his first full-time coaching appointment, but the same feistiness and competitiveness Boucher displayed as a player has rubbed off on the franchise team, while he has also shown a compassionate and understanding side, his mantra being to treat the players as he would have liked to have been treated in his day.
The result has been instant success, with the Titans winning four trophies in his two seasons in charge thus far. And considering the talent that is being honed at his hand, South African cricket can only benefit from having a great like Boucher as the mentor for their future stars.