Bangalore: Mark Boucher is a man dead set on making a return to South Africa's one-day side. Earlier this week, towards the end of a media interaction during which he calmly dealt with questions on topics ranging from the migration of South African cricketing talent to his decision to move to the Cape Cobras next season, he was asked who he thought could continue the tradition of high-quality wicket-keeping in South Africa.
He took a couple of seconds to frame his answer, and it wasn't till he had made it absolutely clear that he considered himself the man who should don the gloves for South Africa that he mentioned some other contenders.
"Quite a few names have been thrown around," he said. "But you know, it's actually up to the guys to put their hands up and say, 'Okay, fine, that is my position'. It's quite difficult for me to answer that question because I still feel I'm good enough to be there, and I still want to be there, I'm passionate enough to want to play for my country. So I don't want to look too far behind me, I'd rather look in front. Yeah, there have been a couple of names mentioned - Daryn Smit, Heino Kuhn, Thami Tsolekile - but ultimately if you want to play for your country, you got to be a lot better than the rest."
Boucher, 34, hasn't been part of South Africa's limited-overs squads since the tour of West Indies in May last year. He hadn't made a half-century since October 2008, and a mere 60 runs in his final five innings led to his axing. His batting worth was mainly perceived to be as a scrapping finisher in the lower middle order, a slot which provides few chances for a struggling batsman to regain his form.
A year ago, South Africa's then coach Corrie van Zyl had said Boucher needed to improve his game to make a limited-overs comeback, improvement which Boucher feels he has made. "I have been working really hard on game and my fitness levels this last off season," Boucher said. "My back started to play up towards the end of last season and needed a bit of work, and I have done that. There's a big season coming up for South Africa, hopefully I can be a part of that, and be successful in getting a couple of victories for South Africa."
South Africa have experimented with Kuhn in Twenty20s and turned AB de Villiers into a wicketkeeper-batsman for the one-dayers. Over the past six months, the chances of a Boucher return have become brighter - de Villiers now bears the additional responsibility of one-day captain, a new coaching regime is in place, and South Africa have endured another World Cup failure that was perceived to be due to a weak lower-middle order. A strong showing with Warriors in the Champions League could turn out to be the final step in achieving his burning ambition of a national one-day comeback.