With 72 wickets in 20 Tests at an average of 26.54, Trent Boult has become New Zealand’s key weapon in the pace bowling department. The swing bowler, who recently hit top form against the West Indies must be raring to have a crack at a rather enervated Indian setup in the upcoming Test series. Bharath Ramaraj analyses the exciting young swing bowler from New Zealand.
During 2010-11 Plunket Shield, New Zealand cricket pundits blinked their eyes in delight at 21-year old, Trent Boult’s profusion of virtuosity to swing the ball late with a bolt upright seam. The wiry youngster swung it with a whippy action, and generated enormous amount of backward rotation on the ball to take 32 wickets at the cost of 25.34. Since then, he has gone on to play for New Zealand, and in his short career has made rapid strides to become a sparkling treasured star in the setup.
As a battered Indian side, already reeling on the back of comprehensively losing the One-Day International (ODI) series, prepares to take on the hosts at Eden Park, Auckland, they better watch out for the swing- merchant from Rotorua, New Zealand.
In fact, Boult in the recently concluded Test series against the West Indies touched heavenly brilliance by taking 20 wickets at an average of 15.40. In the game at Basin Reserve, Wellington, he was an irresistible force. He bowled with exemplary control, pitched it up and swung it around like a boomerang to leave the opposition in a state of dizziness. If you believe West Indies was well below par and he may struggle to reach those lofty heights against India then think again. Here is a bowler who even found a wee bit of swing with a new SG ball when New Zealand toured India in 2012 and that takes some doing. The simple truth is that any bowler who can swing the ball late rather than from the hand, and at decent pace is going to be a handful on most occasions.
Actually, the spell that caught the eye of the writer was his breathtaking six for 68 at Eden Park, Auckland in the first innings of the final Test against England. A better batting side on paper than West Indies, the Englishmen too found themselves in dire-straits against the swinging ball. The redoubtable Jonathan Trott was done in by the classical left-armer’s ploy of angling it across the right-hander, before trapping him on the shuffle plumb in front. The same could be said about Jonny Bairstow, who perhaps walked back to the pavilion contemplating what had hit him, as Boult bowled a crackerjack in-swinger to trap him dead in front. The tail-enders were just blown away in a trail of blaze within no time.
Arguably the best delivery of the match though, didn’t help him to add yet another wicket to his kitty. The one he bowled to Stuart Broad late on the fourth day tailed in so late that one wondered whether it was more of a circular saw machine rather than the red cherry swinging profusely in the air. Only an inside edge saved Broad from marching back to the pavilion. Even Brian Lara at the peak of his prowess might have struggled to play that delivery with any degree of conviction. In short, one can only marvel at the surgical-like finesse of Boult’s fingers and wrists.
To have a left-arm swing bowler bowling at decent clicks in your team is a gift-wrapped weapon to any captain. Remember, the Indian line-up is stacked up with right-handers. Boult, in all likelihood should give them plenty of headaches by angling it across them and bringing the odd one back. Yes, he is still learning the tricks of a swing bowler’s trade, but up against a line-up known to take chances by playing a flurry of shots, he should be in the business.
There isn’t a much better sight in cricket than watching a swing bowler seemingly having the ball on a string and combining marvellous skill with geometric precision to take a slew of wickets. Having played only 20 Tests, the 24-year old Boult still has a long way to go. Yet, the writer is convinced that in terms of skillful swing bowling, he is poised to take over the mantle from James Anderson (Ashes debacle notwithstanding) as the most skilful swing-merchant going around.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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