Boucher forced to retire
South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher has retired from international cricket after suffering a serious eye injury against Somrset on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old required three hours of surgery on his left eye last night and, after being released this morning, it was first confirmed he would leave the tour.
But in a prepared statement read out by his Test captain Graeme Smith during lunch on day two of the tour match in Taunton, it was revealed the injury had forced Boucher to end his career.
Smith read Boucher's statement in the first person, surrounded by his team at the County Ground.
"It is with sadness and pain that I announce, due to the severity of my eye injury, I will not be able to play international cricket again," Smith read from Boucher's statement.
Boucher had intended to retire at the end of the current tour, after his scheduled 150th Test in the final match of three against England.
"I prepared for this UK tour as well, if not better, than I have prepared for any tour in my career," the statement continued.
"I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now, but circumstances have dictated differently.
"I have a number of thank-yous to make to people who have made significant contributions during my international career, which I will do in due course.
"For now, I would like to thank the huge number of people, many of whom are strangers, for their heart-felt support during the last 24 hours.
"I am deeply touched by all the well-wishers, and I wish the team well in the UK as I head home on to a road of uncertain recovery."
Boucher suffered the freak injury yesterday when he was struck by a flying bail while standing up to leg-spinner Imran Tahir on the opening day against Somerset.
He fell to the ground and was helped from the pitch with blood apparently coming from his eye.
He was taken to hospital immediately, where he had surgery to repair a laceration to the white of his eyeball, but concerns remain over his long-term health.
The extent of the damage to Boucher's eye will be assessed on his return to South Africa, with the veteran - who is the record-holder for most Test dismissals - set to fly out on the earliest possible fight.
Boucher's team-mates are understandably shocked and saddened by his misfortune, and team manager Dr Mohammad Moosajee spoke of the impact his injury has had at the very start of their high-profile tour.
"The freak nature of the accident and the severity of the accident caused most of the players to be there (at the hospital) until about midnight and then from 7am this morning," he said.
"It has affected some of the players understandably. We are humans first and then sports people. Players like Graeme (Smith) and Jacques (Kallis) have had at least a decade-long relationship with Mark as a colleague and a friend."
Moosajee added it is impossible to make a long-term prognosis on the effects of Boucher's sight.
"He was discharged about 10am this morning. The procedure itself took about two and a half hours, the surgeon described the injuries as extensive and severe.
"They repaired what they could, especially the lacerations.
"They are hoping that with time and when the swelling and inflammation settles we will get a clearer picture. But at the minute the prognosis is unclear.
"We need to remain as positive as we can - but we will only know in a few weeks' time.
"Mark is a character, a selfless individual always putting his country and his team-mates before himself.
"In the 15 years he has played for South Africa, he has always done so with distinction."
Kallis spoke of a traumatic time for the entire squad, and expressed his own heart-felt good wishes for his friend and team-mate.
"It's not about cricket any more. I hope he recovers fully," he said.
"It has been a tough 24 hours not only for myself, but his family and team-mates.
"He seems in good spirits. He has all our well-wishes and from people around the world."
Among those expressing their shock and concern from afar today were England captain Andrew Strauss.
"It's devastating for him ... I just wish him a full and swift recovery," he told Sky Sports News.
"He's one of their really senior players. I feel for him.
"Anyone who wants to play at top level wants to be involved in these series, and I'm sure he is no different.
"Let's hope more importantly that he makes a full recovery."
"In terms of the series, obviously AB de Villiers can keep wicket. They are a good, balanced side with depth."
Boucher has made his gratitude known for all the good wishes via Twitter. He wrote: "Retirement had 2 be called bit early, but thnks 2 EVERYONE 4 all the good times and tough times!
"Ur support for me has brought me to my knees! I can't thank u all enough. Gonna b a tough time 4 me ..."
Boucher's former coach Mickey Arthur paid tribute too to an outstanding career in which the wicketkeeper accounted for 998 international victims behind the stumps - as well as holding an outfield catch, and also managing one wicket as a bowler, to take his tally up to 1,000.
"I was really disappointed for him," said Arthur, now Australia coach and at Old Trafford for today's NatWest Series match against England.
He added on BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think he finished on 999 dismissals, and just short of 150 Test matches.
"I know he wanted to come here because he wanted it to be his real swansong as a Test series, so it's really disappointing to end this way for Mark.
"(I have) lots of memories as his coach, too many memories.
"I was really close to Mark. I had a special affinity for him; I knew his family very well - for a time we lived in the same city - and I coached him at state level.
"I coached him for the period he was out of the South African side, when he got dropped for the first time and then got back into the team.
"So we went through a lot of hard times together - a lot of blood, sweat and tears with Bouch. I thought he was a fine cricketer - a guy you really wanted on your side, a guy that never, ever gave up, fought to the bitter end.
"That's how I'll always remember him."