London – South Africa wicket-keeper Mark Boucher's hopes of featuring in the upcoming Test series against England were put on hold after he suffered a potentially career-ending eye injury on Monday.
The 35-year-old, who had hinted this could be his final campaign before retirement, was hit in the face when a bail ricocheted off the stumps after Gemaal Hussain was bowled by Imran Tahir during the first day of the Proteas' tour opener against English county Somerset at Taunton.
Boucher, as would be expected for leg-spinner Tahir, was standing up to the stumps, but he was wearing a cap rather than a helmet.
After treatment on the field, Boucher was helped off with blood coming from his left eye and taken to hospital
His place behind the stumps was filled by AB de Villiers, who has kept wicket in international matches for South Africa.
Were Boucher to feature in all three Test this series, he would reach the coveted 150-mark but at the close of play South Africa team manager Dr Mohammad Moosajee said that was unlikely.
“I don't think he will be ready for the first Test (at The Oval starting on July 19), if the series, but I would like to wait for the information the surgery gives us.”
Moosajee, explaining the extent of the damage done to Boucher, added: “It is a significant injury.
“Mark sustained a direct blow to the left eye, which resulted in a laceration to the white part.
“It is what we call an eyeball rupture.
“The ophthalmic surgeon had a look at him at the Accident and Emergency Unit and decided that he needed to undergo exploratory surgery to identify the extent of the damage.
“He will need a general anaesthetic so there has to be a six-hour gap since he last ate a meal. That means the operation will be performed at around 7pm (1800GMT).
“After the operation we will talk to the surgeon again. With eye injuries one cannot make predictions.
“From a medical point of view a lot depends on whether there is damage to the retina, which allows us to see and focus. We won't know about that until after the surgery.
“The surgeons will be able to give us a better indication of the damage after the operation. Then it will take 48 to 72 hours for the swelling to start going down,” Moosajee added.
Boucher has been a mainstay of the South Africa side for 15 years, appearing in 147 Tests and becoming the first wicket-keeper to take 500 catches in Test cricket, where he has also scored five hundreds.
South Africa's selectors may now have to call-up specialist wicket-keeper Thami Tsolekile, even if de Villiers continues behind the stumps, should Boucher be ruled out of the tour completely.
“The concern at the moment is for Mark Boucher the patient, rather than whether he is going to take part in the rest of the tour,” said Moosajee.
“The selectors back home are being kept abreast of what is happening.
South Africa fast bowling great turned bowling coach Allan Donald said former team-mate Boucher had been looking forward to a series where the Proteas hope to wrest the world number one Test ranking from England..
“He wanted to finish here,” Donald told Sky Sports. “I can't think of a bigger kick in the teeth than that.
“To happen on the first day is a cruel blow. Let's just hope he is going to be okay.” – Sapa-AFP