Cricket is a game of uncertainty and who knows it better than South Africa. The cricket history of South Africa has been a volatile one for the last so many years. From South Africa’s boycott in international matches for apartheid (1970-1991) to unsuccessful streaks at World Cups – they saw it all.
It took a drastic turn in the last decade, as the team saw so many famous cricketers leaving the game. Some of them might have walked into the sunset at the right time in ripe age; there are several others players who had to shockingly retire too early leaving all fans in a state of deep exasperation and despair.
#5) Herschelle Gibbs (1996-2010): Gibbs was known for his powerful shots up the order. He had been a consistent match winner for South Africa for more than a decade. Unfortunately, Gibbs retired from cricket at the age of just 36. Though, Gibbs wanted to play ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in India, his inconsistent performance at the last series against Australia averaging just 26 before the gala tournament brought his career to a final halt.
Gibbs’s career was full of ups and downs. The explosive opener was indicted in a match-fixing saga (1999), and also banned from playing cricket in 2007 for hurling a racist slur at Pakistan team. Eventually, his controversial autobiography said it all that it shouldn’t.
From Marijuana addiction to shaming own team-mates, Gibbs opened up it all in his autobiography. However, his 175 during a successful chase of Aussie’s 434, three consecutive tons in 2002 and six sixes against Netherlands will remain the highlight of his career.
#4) Graeme Smith (2002-2014): When Smith was selected as the new skipper of the bruised South African cricket team especially after the 2003 cricket world cup disaster under Shaun Pollock’s sincere yet unfruitful captaincy, he was just 21. But Smith made the best out of it. Even after taking untimely retirement at 33, Smith’s glorious captaincy tasted all success.
It was the southpaw’s own dull form at the last test series against Australia that prompted him to call it a day. Smith could manage just 45 in that test series. Yet, he scaled the impossible world record of captaining his side at 109 tests winning 53 (maximum as a captain even now) and losing 29 of them. Graeme Smith also garnered more than 16000 runs international runs in his unblemished career.
#3) Lance Klusener (1996-2004): A lanky all-rounder with a sublime swing bowling and hard-hitting batting down the order, Klusener took retirement at just 33. Zulu rose to pinnacle of success during cricket 1999 Cricket World Cup hammering 250 runs and scalping 17 wickets in the tournament. He played a pivotal role steering his team into the semis though South Africa failed to cross Australia’s total by a whisker.
Kluserner’s flawless cricket career and fantastic all-round performance across formats make him the most revered South African all-rounder after the legend Jacques Kallis. He has more than 5400 runs and 270 wickets to his credit at international matches.
#2) Jonty Rhodes (1992-2003): No fielder has made such a big impact in the game of cricket as Rhodes did. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long as the miraculous fielder retired at the age of just 34. A finger injury in 2003 literally ended his career on a high note with an average of 35 across formats.
Jonty was pioneer in fielding at the gully, third man and silly point region. He was the architect of South Africa’s many memorable victories with his fielding and strong finishing stint in the ODIs in the middle order. Currently, Rhodes is enjoying his stint as a fielding coach of Mumbai Indians.
#1) Mark Boucher (1997-2012): Undisputedly, the greatest wicket-keeper of all time across formats, Boucher stood to most of the occassions. His 15-year in international cricket marked several victories and achievements before taking an untimely retirement owing to a nasty eye-injury when a bail struck on his left eye-retina while he was keeping wickets.
South Africa Wicket Keeper Mark Boucher’s Career Ended Too Soon
Mark Boucher had to immediately retire from international cricket at the age of 36. Heartbreakingly, his international career stuck at 999 dismissals – just 1 catch/ stumping short of the rarest four-figure dismissal-mark. As a batsman, Boucher has represented South African in 450 plus international matches scoring more than 10, 000 runs with 6 tons and 61 fifties.
(By: Atish Home Chowdhury)
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