Match 1: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Rajasthan Royals
0.3 - Boult to Abhishek Sharma, Bowled! An absolute Jaffa from Boult, Sharma stays leg side and the ball swings away and crashes into the off-stump. “Hello IPL 2023,” says Trent Boult!
0.5 - Boult to Tripathi, caught by Holder. Another outswinging beauty from Boult, this time it’s the right-handed Tripathi. He tries to open the face of the bat, but ends up being caught at first slip. A double-wicket maiden for the Royals quick. Just how often have we seen him do this?
SRH: 0-2, chasing a massive 204.
How about THAT for a start! 🤯— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) April 8, 2023
WHAT. A. CATCH from the #RR skipper ⚡️⚡️#DC lose Impact Player Prithvi Shaw and Manish Pandey in the first over!
Follow the match ▶️ https://t.co/FLjLINwRJC#TATAIPL | #RRvDC pic.twitter.com/rpOzCFrWdQ
If Boulty tells us that zero is his favourite number, we’d believe him in a heartbeat. After all, it’s what we see against the batter’s name when he sends them packing even before they’ve unpacked at the crease.
Days after denting the SRH batting line-up in our first match of the season, Boult was back at it again, this time troubling the Delhi Capitals as another humongous target from the Royals stared them in the face. Then, against Royal Challengers Bangalore, a momentous landmark was celebrated by Boult trapping Virat Kohli plumb in front to take his 100th IPL wicket. It was the first time the Kiwi pacer had dismissed Kohli. Stuff of dreams, they say!
“I keep it very simple. I like to swing the ball so I’m generally trying to pitch it up. It comes with a bit of a risk, with players obviously liking to attack fuller-pitched bowling, but I think it’s a very simple game,” he says, with a modest smile.
For those watching him from the outside, it’s no less than a marvel. The preparation, the execution, the understated celebrations after taking a wicket - no matter how unbelievable the delivery looked. It’s like he almost always knows what’s coming. The batter is foxed. You’re jumping in the stands, or in your living room, asking for the broadcaster to keep showing replays. Him? He’s just casually acknowledging it with a quick high-five from his teammates and is already walking back to bowl his next.
Unless it’s a meticulous plan that comes off in the most beautiful, unexpected fashion. That’s when you see him truly express himself. Circa IPL 2022, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was on its feet when Boult memorably cleaned up KL Rahul on the very first ball of the innings. Coming around the wicket (a move he says was his teammate Jimmy Neesham’s idea), angling in, he fired the perfect inswinger that rocketed past Rahul’s bat and pads, uprooting the leg stump in a jiffy. Then came his celebratory pointing of the finger at the Royals dugout, where Neesham sat, applauding his fellow New Zealander’s flawless execution.
“He (KL Rahul) has gotten the better of me many times, and it was nice to finally get one past him. To see the bails light up, it was a good memory. We just decided to mix it up, and very rarely does it happen that a plan actually comes off in T20 cricket. It was my favourite wicket of the season.”
Over the past few years, Boult’s reputation in the IPL has grown into that of a Powerplay specialist, with his new-ball tricks consistently inflicting damage on the opposition from the get-go. A quick look at the numbers and it all comes together. Last year, 10 of his 16 wickets in the season came inside the first six overs, with double-wicket maidens and wickets on consecutive deliveries putting the icing on the cake. Boult has picked 21 first-over wickets in the IPL so far, and is only one scalp away from equaling the all-time leader of the pack, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (22*). Though Boult has done it much quicker, taking just 74 innings to get to the figure, as compared to Bhuvi’s 105. A further deepdive shows just how effective he’s historically been in overs 1-6, having pocketed 47 wickets - the joint-sixth-highest overall - and the only overseas bowler to feature in the Top 10.
“I’m a better bowler every time I come back here. The conditions here in India are a lot different to what I’m used to back home in New Zealand. ”
It’s a challenge he relishes. And will do even more this year, in his first season as a Royal playing at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium - traditionally a spinner’s paradise. The idea of playing alongside some promising new names in the team, and the pedigree of coaches in the setup is what excites him the most. It also made his transition into the Royals side a smooth affair.
“One of the best things about the IPL is getting to experience new coaches. Kumar (Sangakkara) is a brilliant coach, brilliantly experienced player, it’s been exciting to play underneath him. Lasith Malinga, another guy that needs no introduction. He’s seamlessly fit into the coaching role, and it’s always nice to have someone with such experience to bounce ideas off.
With their shared love for the yorker, it’s hardly a surprise to see the Kiwi dart in one yorker after the other with such ease. But what surprised (and delighted) us all last year was to see Boult in a never-seen-before avatar, being promoted to No.8 in our batting line-up. While that knock against Lucknow Super Giants (17 off 9 balls) was refreshing, and included Boult’s first four in the IPL, it wasn’t particularly amusing for the pacer.
“I was severely out of my depth with a role at No.8 last season, so I’m hoping that’s not the same this year! (Smiles)”
Boult’s phenomenal success in the longer formats apart, it is the way he has adapted to the demands of T20 cricket that puts him on a different pedestal altogether. The rich experience that comes with representing multiple franchises across different T20 leagues in the world, in varied conditions, makes him a treasure trove of fast bowling.
Last year, when the Royals triumphed against SRH in the season-opener, it was Boult with his then new-ball partner Prasidh Krishna who combined to wreak havoc in the Powerplay. It was a special Royals debut for Prasidh, but the youngster couldn’t stop heaping praises on his partner.
Prasidh said, “Honestly, I was looking forward to working with Boulty as soon as the auctions were done. It is exciting to have one of the highest wicket-takers in Powerplay bowling with you. We’ve had conversations around how we can prepare, what we can do, and a lot of other tactical things. It’s good to start off this partnership in the right way.”
It’s the kind of impact a seasoned cricketer like Boult has had on an entire generation of young, upcoming fast bowlers, not just in India but around the world. Yet, it is his ‘put-your-head-down-and-keep-learning’ approach that makes him one of the better students of the game, as he consistently looks to evolve in his role as a senior pacer.
“I like to enjoy, go out there and see what happens.”
Simply put, it has also been his approach to life, overall. Gone are the days when fast bowlers looked angry and simply went about unleashing fury. Here comes a smiling, lovable assassin, not waiting for the batter to make a mistake, but forcing them into making one. With skill and guile, not pace and bounce. That he belongs to a rare breed of left-arm fast bowlers who can seamlessly work their magic irrespective of the format, makes him an asset to have in any team.
Off the field, he’s a bit of a character as well. Often spotted with his guitar or a book, always up for a laugh by bringing his natural wit to the fore. But try to play a prank on him and he’ll see it coming from miles away (or so he claims). He’s also really quick to pick up Hindi words and can bowl you over by throwing them around in a conversation. Watching this version of Boulty from close quarters is a revelation to those around him too. It’s what the IPL does best.
Watch the full interview