What makes a left-armer special? Purists, fans and the great debaters of the game have offered riveting views which perhaps boil down to the following.
Over the years, erudite commentators credit the abysmal angle created by a left-armer which induces an edge from the batsman and challenges the technique at the same time. Johnson had biting pace, Chaminda Vaas cunning accuracy and Wasim Akram both.
But in the event of the retirement of these greats, Trent Boult’s emergence as a pace spearhead offers bright resurgence of a revered cricketing specie; a talent that’s hard to score off and even harder to decode.
The effectiveness of a Mitchell Johnson ceremoniously floated around the shuddering sight of pure terror, the vestiges of which still haunt English Batters. Though Mitchell Starc may often seem a mirror image of Johnson, Starc carries his own distinct cult of personality when he walks out for Australia. He’s less vocal and his game doesn’t hinge on the excesses of physicality, quite like his glorious predecessor. Then there’s the great Wasim Akram, a man who at his helm, eulogised the skill of left-arm fast bowling and created his own legacy. Would it be an exaggeration to call him the greatest left-arm pacer of all times?
In a cricketing epoch where power hitting and wrist-spin have been calling the shots, Trent Boult has slowly but surely been making a name for himself as a steady and dependable performer. He might not haunt batsmen with unforgiving pace but is surely fast. In times where much of the focus of media has rested with crediting a Munro or Guptil for sending New Zealand’s opponents flying, it’s Trent Boult who’s brilliance with the white ball in particular has made Kiwis weighty competitors that most sides don’t take lightly in the game today.
Apart from picking up wickets at economical rates, Boult has held his own on drier wickets in the subcontinent. He does tend to get expensive when in an attempt to hit the deck hard, he ends up landing the quick ones short of good length, but compensates it quickly by accounting for quick wickets. Typical for left-armer, Boult’s stock delivery is the one that pitches in line with the stumps and moves away, with guidance from the air. On a good day when the ball is moving, say akin to a Sabina Park or Perth of the 70s, Boult is a throwback to a classic era where batsmen had to accumulate runs, not score them through butchering. Perhaps, what adds to Boult’s charm is the sheer lack of left-armers that New Zealand possessed in the past. Though Geoff Allott sizzled during the late 90’s which saw him emerge as the joint Highest wicket-taker in the 1999 Cricket World Cup.
The likes of Danny Morrison, Dion Nash and Richard Hadlee had immense confidence in their ability to utilise seam and swing to their advantage. The latter was a real master and is way ahead of any other Kiwi bowler statistically till date. Shane Bond was an out and out quickie who was both methodical and skilful. But, a genuine left-arm pacer has always eluded New Zealand. Though, not any more. Boult is here to stay.
Boult may not be the typical cuss word spitting, angry pacer who tries to demolish batsmen with sharpness of pace and venom of verbal attack. On the contrary, Boult’s smile and modest celebrations after dismissing a batsman presents an amicable sight on a Cricket Field. Boult’s maiden call up to the Test side was a successful one as his four wickets helped New Zealand beat Australia in their own backyard for the first time since 1985.
His first 10-for in a Test came against the West Indies at Basin Reserve where he bowled with lively pace and got the ball to do things off the track. The performance was enough for him to be adjudged the Man of the Match for the first time. Boult’s introduction into the T20s was equally successful as he picked up four wickets in two games at the T20 World Cup held at Bangladesh in 2014.
He finished the 2015 World Cup with 22 dismissals, emerging as the joint highest wicket taker in the Tournament which was brutally dominated by batsmen.
Speaks a lot of Boult , doesn’t it?
His demolition of Australia in the group stage of the tournament was as good an exhibition of left-arm swing bowling as you’d ever see. Unlike most bowlers, Boult has the ability to switch between formats with ease and essentially trusting his basics to get the maximum results. His ability to remain injury free augurs well both for him and New Zealand. 2017 was a glorious year for Boult especially in white ball cricket. He picked up 31 ODI scalps including 3 four-wicket hauls.
His biggest Kiwi skill is his unassuming and modest demeanour. But, his ability to swing the new ball with accuracy combining clever variations- such as the slower leg cutter- during the death overs make him a difficult customer to get away. There is little doubt that Trent Boult will be one of the performers to watch out for in the coming cricket season for New Zealand.