Friday, November 03, 2006

CT Awakes: Mark Boucher opens up South African options

Little over a year ago Mark Boucher was struggling for his place in the South African side. His wicketkeeping was only a hazy reflection of the sprightly young man from that glorious international debut season of 1997-98. Most of all, his combative batting had lost some of its sheen in that period leading up to the Australia vs. ICC XI in October 2005.
Boucher's selection in the ICC XI raised most eyebrows, including the pair looking into the monitor while keying in this post. Upon hindsight even Boucher will agree that a premature end to a promising career - he is only 28 - was not out of sight at that point of time as the South African selectors explored other options like AB deVilliers as an alternate keeper batsman.

The last year or so has been especially fulfilling for Boucher the batsman in that context. Since the much-criticised Aus-v-ICCXI affair in October last year he has upped his Test batting even though the opposition has been some of the toughest (6 tests versus Australia in either land and two against Sri Lanka in their backyard). Moreover his one day scores have started flowering like never before. Let's have a look at this statistical breakup of his fall and rise as a batsman:

Mark Boucher batting stats (upto Oct 2006)


Avg, career: 30.10
Avg, Nov 2003 to Oct 2005: 26.85
Avg, Nov 2005 to Oct 2006: 29.36


Avg, career: 27.93
Avg, Nov 2003 to Oct 2005: 27.45
Avg, Nov 2005 to Oct 2006: 44.62
The clincher of an innings he played against Pakistan coming in at 36/4 in the league match at Mohali the other day was another confirmation of his capacity to fill up a lower middle order position in the South African ODI line up. That would hand his team a useful leverage in the form of flexibility to pick a few slow bowlers without leaving out any of their potent fast men.
Ahead of a world cup which is likely to test their adaptability to the fullest, 'Boucher on song' may well be some much-needed soothing music for the selectors.

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