Club Cricket Conference

Wednesday, 24th April 2024

Boucher's injury must act as reminder for all players

By Charles Randall

8 August 2012

The full extent of the eye injury suffered by Mark Boucher has been disclosed this week, and his plight serves as a warning to the wider game of the danger of injury in cricket, especially wicketkeeping.

Boucher, South Africa's wicketkeeper, had lacerations to his left eye lens, iris and pupil, suffering severe retina damage, caused by a bail flicking up into his face when leg-spinner Imran Tahir bowled Gemaal Hussain with a googly in a tour match against Somerset at Taunton in July.

Boucher was wearing only a cap at the time. In club cricket, wearing a helmet and grille has become a requirement at age group level, and Boucher's injury proves that it is highly advisable for all players to take precautions. Whether Boucher could have been saved by a grille is a moot point, though sun glasses would have averted this type of risk. Paul Downton, the former England wicketkeeper, still suffers from blurred vision after a similar serious eye injury behind the stumps for Middlesex in a 1990 limited overs match.

In February 2000 the ECB issued new safety guidance on the wearing of helmets by players up to the age of 18, which makes sense for any player of any age. The authorities recommended that young wicketkeepers should wear a helmet with a faceguard or a wicketkeeper face protector when standing up to the stumps. Helmets with faceguard should be regarded as normal equipment for batsmen.

The ECB said: "The original guidance allowed parents or guardians to give their written consent to allow a young player not to wear a helmet. However now parental consent not to wear a helmet should not be accepted in any form of cricket. This guidance applies to all players up to the age of 18, both in adult cricket and in all junior cricket played with a hard cricket ball. The guidance also applies during all practice sessions. Any individual taking responsibility for players should take all reasonable steps to ensure that this guidance is followed at all times."

Boucher retired immediately from all cricket when he realised his sight would be jeopardised by any similar occurrence. He said this week the past month had been difficult mentally and physically for him. "At times, I have been in a lot of pain," he said. "I accept that the healing process is a long one and that attaining some vision in my left eye will take some time and a lot of patience.

"Injuries happen, and this could have happened earlier on in my career. I am incredibly grateful for the length of career that I have had and the amazing things I have experienced and people I have met during that time. This is just another challenge in my life and something that I will be working to overcome."

"It does get uncomfortable at times and being a sportsman, I want to be active and outdoors but, without a pupil, I find any amount of sunlight very harsh and have thus been restricted to the confines of my home."