Boult unfazed by pressure after stellar World Cup
New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult, currently representing Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2015, has covered a journey in cricket not many players can claim to have had. Boult has carved his way from Tests to ODIs to domestic T20s, with his recent match-winning performances, a journey unlike what many players take. The joint highest wicket-taker in the 2015 World Cup and ranked sixth in Tests and ODIs, Boult was bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs 3.8 crore (approx. US $633,000) in the IPL auction two months ago and the confident bowler said that he is not under much pressure coming into the IPL.
"I don't think there is too much pressure to be honest," Boult told ESPNcricinfo. "I enjoyed the World Cup immensely but I don't think the pressure beats me and I'm not worried about the expectation and all that. If I can put that aside and just enjoy being here, I think that will bring out the best in me. [In my game there are] not too many changes. I think the more that I've played, the more that I've grown as a cricketer and a bowler."
Before the World Cup, the 25-year-old swing bowler had played only 16 ODIs, and coming into the IPL he had only 40 Twenty20s under his belt. Boult, however, is not nervous about the day when he will be belted around the park and won't have anything to show in the wickets column.
"Me personally, I try not to think about it too much, it's part of the game," he said. "In Twenty20 cricket you are going to get hit for boundaries and sixes. How quickly you can put it behind you, how quickly you can come back and hopefully take some wickets…I know it's easier said than done but the best players in the world have their ways to get through that.
"[Having a go-to delivery], that's the key. I think you need to have a ball that you are most comfortable bowling, that you can bowl in the pressure situation. It's just one of those things to have a slower ball, to have a yorker or whatever it is to go to at the pressure [times], it's very important. For me it's the yorker, it's the delivery I feel most comfortable bowling under pressure."
The one main difference Boult, or any other fast bowler who played in the World Cup, will face will be the change in conditions in the IPL, compared to the helpful pitches of Australia and New Zealand. Boult said the conditions made it imperative for bowlers to adapt early on in the tournament.
"Yes, obviously it was pretty helpful to be in our home conditions which us as a team, us as bowlers we were familiar with," Boult said. "I think we knew what lengths to bowl and what lines. The grounds we played at the ball swung nicely but I guess the challenge is to come to India - obviously much different climate, much different environment and very different wickets. I think the ball will swing here, just won't be the same as back in New Zealand, so we have to quickly adapt to that and make sure my line and length is right and I'm hoping that I can be tricky for the batsmen."
One batsman he couldn't trick in his IPL debut was New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, when Sunrisers took on Chennai Super Kings on Saturday. The IPL is the first time Boult is playing a domestic T20 tournament outside New Zealand - barring the 2014 Champions League T20 in which he represented his home side, Northern Knights - and his debut set up a much anticipated clash against McCullum.
"Brendon was in good form and he seemed to be ahead of me," Boult said. "He's very intimidating and he was in very good form. The plan was for me to get the ball to swing and pitch the ball up but it didn't swing much. Once it becomes pretty straight and narrow you expect some boundaries. He played a terrific innings and it was definitely a good learning curve to bowl to someone like that. We went through our plans but the wicket was a bit different than what we thought and it was a lot slower so those plans unfortunately didn't work so well."
From being New Zealand's frontline bowler only in Tests, his wicket-taking ability has made him one of the most feared quick bowlers in the world currently. He was given the opportunity to open for New Zealand in ODIs as well, leading into the World Cup in which he took 22 wickets - the same as Man of the Series Mitchell Starc.
"I played about a dozen ODIs before the start of the World Cup and gained a lot of confidence out of playing the tournament and learnt more about my game," Boult said. "Getting to bowl to some good batsmen around the world has taught me a lot so hopefully I can continue the form and bring it to this IPL campaign.
"Shane Bond has been very good to work with. Obviously a very experienced cricketer himself and not so much technically, but with me he's shared his thoughts on field placements, how to get the right line…those sorts of things. Not so much for the white-ball format, more in Test-match cricket."
Until six months before the World Cup, Boult was seen primarily as a Test bowler. It was only when he was picked for the home ODIs against South Africa last October and the ODIs against Sri Lanka earlier this year that he started taking wickets with the white ball as well. Boult was not among the top five wicket-takers against Sri Lanka, and played four out of the seven matches in the series, but was still picked ahead of Matt Henry, who was making news for bowling consistently above the 145kmph mark.
"Obviously the difference between Tests and shorter format is that batsmen are coming at you a lot more and looking to attack against my deliveries," he said. "I think my thinking has to be much quicker and I have to plan to be ahead of the batsmen as much as I can. That can sometimes get very difficult. But I think that's probably the biggest challenge."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo