2024 T20 World Cup: Kiwis will miss Boult's Powerplay magic | Crickit
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2024 T20 World Cup: Kiwis will miss Boult's Powerplay magic

Jun 17, 2024 08:02 PM IST

Last week, the New Zealand left-arm quick declared that he has played his last T20 World Cup

"If this is the last question, I'd like to say that I'll be bidding goodbye to international cricket."

Uganda's Kenneth Waiswa, left, and batting partner Ronak Patel score a run off New Zealand's Trent Boult, right, during an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba(AP)
Uganda's Kenneth Waiswa, left, and batting partner Ronak Patel score a run off New Zealand's Trent Boult, right, during an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba(AP)

With just those words, West Indies legend Brian Lara gave that press conference during the 2007 World Cup a whole different perspective.

Around a year later, in October 2008, former India skipper Sourav Ganguly dropped a bombshell of similar proportions without giving anything away in the lead-up.

"Just one last thing, lads, before I leave. I just want to say that this is going to be my last series,” Ganguly had said.

Last week, New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult dispatched his own version of retreating from the pressures of international cricket by closing a press conference in a similar fashion.

"Speaking on behalf of myself this will be my last T20 World Cup. So yeah, that's all I have to say," he declared before allowing himself a giggle.

Boult’s announcement, unlike those of Lara and Ganguly, did not leave the press room in chaos. Like most New Zealand cricketers, he is going away without fuss. Besides, the left-arm pacer had already expressed his desire to shift priorities towards franchise cricket in 2022 by refusing a national contact.

Following that decision, Boult hasn’t played Test cricket for New Zealand. And although he featured in the 2023 ODI World Cup, one can’t be sure if he will play in next year’s Champions trophy.

Come the death overs, does New Zealand get to look towards the man who bowled the final over as well the Super over in the 2019 World Cup final? New Zealand’s third highest wicket-taker (317 wickets, 78 matches) among pacers behind Richard Hadlee and Tim Southee no longer wants to shoulder the burdens of long spells with the red ball.

NEW BALL CHAMPION

But the biggest testament of Boult’s adaptability came in T20 cricket. For a man who initially took time to become friends with the white ball, his ability to create a niche for himself in T20 Powerplays became legendary. Whenever there was swing, Boult found it. If the ball didn’t move in the air, he knew how to create angles to trouble batters. The left-arm swing ace picked up 90 Powerplay wickets in all T20s at a strike rate of 23 in the powerplay.

Why just the first six? Boult became a master of trapping batters in the very first over. While some captains tried to sneak in a cheap first over from a non-regular spinner, teams that featured Boult took the aggressive option. Generally, the Kiwi quick would not disappoint. In his T20 career, Boult has bowled 130 first overs and picked up 37 wickets at a strike rate of 21.

As T20 cricket advanced, left-arm swing bowlers increasingly became a trump card. Along with Mitch Starc, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mustafizur Rehman, Boult became one of the most sought-after bowlers.

In T20 leagues, Boult’s stocks have risen so much that he now has choices to make where to play. In the best T20 league in the business, the Boult-Jasprit Bumrah pair were naturally complimentary for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2020 and 2021. Once MI lost Boult to the auction, their bowling suffered. After Boult’s entry, Rajasthan Royals became a greater Powerplay bowling force.

At 34, while he continues to ply his trade in T20 leagues, he will be dearly missed in ICC world events of the shortest format, where he is in the top ten list of wicket takers (32 in 17 matches). For New Zealand, Boult and Tim Southee were their finest new ball pair.

“Yeah, I look at it with very fond memories,” Boult said about his bowling tango with Southee. “We bowled a lot of overs together. I know the partnership very well, and obviously a very good friend on and off the ground.”

As New Zealand cricket seeks reinforcements in the transition that’s upon them now, filling the void left behind by Boult will be the most difficult. Especially in white-ball cricket.

“There are kids coming through, but it will be a long time, a long, long time just as it was with Richard Hadlee, until we replace or come close to replacing what Trent Boult has done,” said Ian Smith, former cricketer, commentator with some authority on New Zealand cricket.

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