Trent Boult has been New Zealand's best bowler in this decade. (© Getty Images)
Trent Boult has been New Zealand’s best bowler in this decade. (© Getty Images)

With just a week left for the much-awaited Test series of this season that will be played between India and New Zealand, the level of anticipation has scaled newer heights. The first of the three-match series will commence on September 22 at Kanpur and the preparations in both the dugouts are in full swing. New Zealand selectors certainly had an arduous task in penning down the squad to lock horns with the Indian giants in their own den. New Zealand will certainly have a spin factor playing in the back of their head as the recent Test series in India saw rank turners being produced, which tested Achilles Heels of the visitors. However, one of their keys to success in recent times has been a left-arm pacer, Trent Boult.

Back in 2011, the wily left-arm pacer broke into the New Zealand side and was tipped to be the future of their pace attack. He did live to the expectations and is now leading their pace attack. Boult possesses horse like stamina and is well capable of bowling long spells without much of volatility. He is known to exploit conditions and his strength lies in his ability to swing the ball both the ways in pokerfaced conditions.

Boult has not played a lot of Test matches in the subcontinent. In fact, he has not played enough games with the white ball as well but definitely has the ingredients to excel in docile Indian surfaces. Despite the kind of reputation he carries, Boult was a passenger in India for close to three months. He did not get a single game in the ICC World T20 2016 for New Zealand whereas got a solitary game for the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). In fact, he hardly had any role to play in Sunriser’s successful campaign towards the title.

But Test cricket being a different proposition, it is a different ball game altogether. And Boult without a doubt has mastered the art of bowling wise fully in Test cricket. The red ball game is more balanced than the one with the white ball, the balance is not heavily tilted in the favour of the batsmen. Boult gets deadly as the format gets longer and his splendid run in the ICC World Cup 2015 is a testament to it. He finished as the joint highest wicket-taker along with Mitchell Starc for 22 scalps to his name.

Boult till date has featured in 43 Tests for the side with 158 wickets to his name at 29.32. He is coming into series from an average run in the Test series against South Africa, where he had five scalps to his name in couple of Tests. The series against India will certainly serve as an ideal platform for him to capitalise and prove his prowess on surfaces, which does not provide enough assistance for pacers.

Why Boult can succeed against India?

Boult is without a doubt one of the best new ball bowlers in Test cricket. He can make the new ball move to its command and his accuracy is just mesmerising. Indian top-order has been vulnerable against swing and looks bereft of oomph when the ball is moving. Boult can exploit this weakness and chip early wickets, which are like gold in any format.

There have been talks of Indian churning out turning wickets in order to counterattack New Zealand as they famously did against South Africa last year. Their spinners spun the South African batsmen in a deadly web and dominated the visitors. New Zealand have a decent bunch of young spinners in Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig, and India’s ploy may back fire like it did during the World T20 opener, where New Zealand beat India in their game of spin. If there is any help in the pitch for the pace bowlers, one can expect Boult to stand out. To add to Boult’s good fortunes, he is vigorous when the ball is reversing. Boult will to dangerous to handle when the ball starts reversing.

Boult has played two Tests in India which means he lacks experience. He played his two Tests in 2012 and is best remembered for cleaning up Sachin Tendulkar in the first Test. Boult is now a better bowler than what he was back them.

The first Test that Boult played in India was at Hyderabad, where he had three scalps to his name. On a surface, which had assistance for the spinners, Boult had the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Tendulkar in his wicket tally. New Zealand lost the game by an innings and 115 runs. Boult did not have a noteworthy run in the second Test and Tim Southee overshadowed him.

Trent Boult in subcontinent conditions

Country

Tests

Wickets

Ave

BB

SR

5w

In India

2

5

49.40

3-93

80.2

0

In Sri Lanka

2

9

15.11

4-38

39.4

0

In Bangladesh

2

3

58.66

2-50

120

0

In UAE

3

8

32.50

4-38

81.7

0

After an ordinary series in India, he was excellent in Sri Lanka and even in the UAE conditions, he was more than decent. So Boult will remain a threat. This time around, there will be pressure; Boult will be against the likes of composed Murali Vijay, and in form Virat Kohli and a promising KL Rahul and a consistent Ajinkya Rahane. His toughest challenge lies against these quality artists with the bat. The stands will hardly be cheering for him, the conditions will be testing and Boult has to get his best game out to win the battle.

Former Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum once said, “His ability to swing the ball – and also the two new balls help too – he is really developing nicely as one of our strike weapons at the start. He will face some challenges where opposition teams will try and be more aggressive against him, but I think he’s got the skills to overcome that. He’s a nice level-headed guy…so I’m confident he will be able to do a good job for us even if he is under a bit of pressure at times.” And Boult undoubtedly proved McCullum’s words right. It would not be wrong to say that statistically Boult is best Kiwi bowler of this decade. With 158 wickets, he has the second most wickets for New Zealand since 2010, after Tim Southee. Boult has better average and strike rate.

When Boult marks his run-up at Kanpur, a lot of hopes will be relying on his shoulders and he has to back himself and trust his abilities to excel. The odds may be against him but he is fighter and known for defying the odds. While everyone is talking about spin playing a key role in the Test series, Boult is a bowler who could silently inflict immense damage and win games for his side.

If New Zealand have to win this series, Boult will have to pick a lot of wickets with the new ball, which he is surely capable of.

(Suraj Choudharian avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with CricLife.)