Back in the day, Trent Boult couldn’t get the ball to swing back into right- handers, the delivery that rattled India on Thursday as they crashed out to 92 all out. In fact, he was pushing them too wide.
It was 2011 and Boult wasn’t even thinking about course-correction yet. It was then that he ran into New Zealand’s then new bowling coach Damien Wright.
Boult’s first impression wasn’t great — a tattooed Australian drawling away at the nets. The second impression was even worse. After watching Boult bowl a few deliveries, Wright walked across for a chat and went straight for the knock-out punch: “There are seven things wrong with your action.”
Taken aback, Boult thought that he didn’t have time for this guy, mumbled something and got out of there. He immediately called his brother and said, “new coach is an interesting guy but I don’t like him.” After hearing out the details, his brother enquired whether he had at least asked about those seven errors. It was then that Boult walked across to ask Wright.
Since then, those seven mistakes, which he took two years to correct, have turned around Boult’s career.
Here were the seven sins of Boult as pointed by Wright. 1) You run in too straight. 2) Too fast. 3) The bowling arm is going over the head. 4) As a result, the head falls too much to the right. 5) The front arm falls away to the side. 6) A bad wrist position was pushing the ball too far across. 7) The follow-through was towards the square-leg umpire.
Boult’s first reaction to Wright’s suggestions was to feel deflated, thinking it might take too long, but egged on by the coach and by his own ambition, he went on to sort himself out. An old childhood video too played its part. He went home, asked his mother to cue up a bowling video from his childhood that she had hoarded up, and was happy to see that those seven mistakes weren’t visible. In other words, he was bowling just as Wright wanted him to bowl now – the interim years had twisted his action out of sorts.
Wright wanted him to get chest-on at release and then take it from there. Even now, it’s Wright that Boult turns to when things are going wrong or even when they’re going right. The first victim on Thursday was Dhawan. Boult fancies left-handers more than he does right-handed batsmen. The reason is simple: he can tease them with his outswingers and trouble them with the ones that bend back in. In fact, his first first-class wicket was Suresh Raina in Chennai when he was picked for New Zealand A even before he had played any first-class cricket at home. Dhawan was taken out by the one that came in with the arm.
In his fourth over, after opening up Rohit Sharma with a delivery that angled away, he served a series of away-going deliveries from short-of-length to a length. Then, off the last ball of the over, he got one fuller but importantly, curved it back into Sharma who pushed a return catch to Boult.
He got rid off Gill in his sixth over but the set-up took place in his previous over. It was a clinical case of dismantling with a mix of subtlety and violence. Boult surprised the newcomer with a bouncer that ricocheted off Gill’s helmet. The next ball angled away and Gill was out of balance, his feet not in order, but he just about managed to squirt it out to the on-side. Now, Boult sent one that curved back in and again an out-of-position Gill edged it to the leg side. He repeated the ball in an effort to thread the bat-and-pad gap but Gill edged it past square-leg. Now, came the angler and Gill was lucky not to get an edge.
Having dismantled the confidence of the debutant, Boult returned next over with a series of deliveries on the middle-and-leg. He got the line right on the last ball to produce an action-replay of Sharma’s dismissal – another caught and bowled.
Which captain would take the ball out of Boult’s hand now? He struck with the first ball of his seventh over – a nip-backer that caught Kedar Jadav on the move. Out of position and startled by the incoming delivery, Jadav could only take refuge in the DRS, which sent him packing.
Only Pandya was left now and he smashed Boult for three fours in his ninth over. A fluent aerial on-drive that countered the inswing, a blasted drive to Boult’s right, and a crunched pull. However, Boult had the last laugh in his final over with a bouncer and a surprised Pandya couldn’t get out of the way, gloving it down leg-side to the wicketkeeper. The bowling figures read: 10-4-21-5. Damien Wright would have cherished them, probably more than Boult himself.