A world away in BBL yet Blackcaps door open

    “It’s definitely different,” Boult told CODE Sports after the Stars’ loss to the Sixers. “To see the boys get on the plane and have a Pakistani Christmas … I’ve just checked the score then actually, so I still follow it. “But it feels a little bit foreign, that’s for sure.”Boult, 33, has been an integral member of the Blackcaps for more than a decade, appearing more than 200 times and featuring in their World Test Championship triumph in 2021. Yet earlier this year, he made the decision not to take a New Zealand Cricket (NZC) central contract, opting to focus on other opportunities.One of those was playing in franchise T20 tournaments around the world. Australia got first crack at the left-arm quick who has terrorised international batters for years. It was a choice Boult didn’t make lightly and he was prepared for the inevitable backlash. “To be crude, [it came] from people that I don’t really care about,” Boult says. “My family and my friends and the people I played my career with over the last 12 years stood by my decision. “I’ve played all three formats for close to 10 years and I think [my family have] sacrificed a lot with me going away every time, and I think this is a good chance for me to pay them back. “The fact is, in the role that I play in the game of being a bowler, I look at it that my career is as long as a piece of string and I feel like I’m at the later part of that string. “I want to take up a couple of opportunities and enjoy the last, probably, couple of years of my career.”The T20 circuit presents a unique opportunity for bowlers like Boult to cash in. He was picked up as a platinum player in the inaugural BBL international player draft, worth $340,000. He will also play for the MI Emirates in the first edition of the ILT20 tournament in the UAE from early next year and was retained by the Rajasthan Royals for the 2023 IPL. And while he will be bowling fewer deliveries than he might have in the Karachi Test, those four overs a match have become a lot more difficult as T20 cricket has progressed. His mixed bag of form in the Big Bash — four wickets at 34.75 — is a perfect example of how fickle it can be for even an elite bowler like Boult. “I think T20 cricket can be a very tricky one. You think you’re nailing it and I think you can quickly be put back into place,” Boult admits. “But the biggest challenge so far has been coming to grounds I’m not used to and playing cricket in a different environment where swing bowling probably isn’t as well known. “But then you’re coming up against a lot of quality players that you’ve never heard of in a way, as blunt as that sounds, but it’s a great standard.”*****Boult is one of a handful of Kiwis who have signed up to play in this BBL. Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme have impressed in patches for the Hurricanes and Strikers respectively, while Martin Guptill, the third-highest run scorer in T20I history, is about to begin his stint with the Renegades. Not only is it a reward for New Zealand’s great form in white-ball cricket over the past decade, but a sign of respect for the Big Bash. “I think the league is well followed in New Zealand, first of all,” Boult says. “A lot of players would love to come and have a taste of playing in the tournament. Being a bit parallel to the New Zealand summer, it was always going to be a challenge. “But a little bit of freedom has allowed guys to come over and explore the opportunity. It was always on my to-do list.”The three other Kiwi players are all in the same boat as Boult in terms of foregoing their NZC contracts for other opportunities. De Grandhomme’s selection by the Strikers at the BBL draft was the most surprising, with the all-rounder not in the initial pool of international players. It quickly led to him being released from his NZC contract. Despite reports suggesting it signalled his retirement from international cricket, he’s still hopeful of representing the Blackcaps. “I didn’t know that much, but I was excited when they mentioned my name and happy when it came up,” de Grandhomme told CODE Sports. “The way they run [the Big Bash] and how it looks on TV is awesome because it’s mainly built for people to watch.“It was obviously a hard decision [not to take a NZC contract] but hopefully I might still be able to play a bit of Test cricket after this if I get a chance.”Despite looking forward to his future as a T20 gun for hire, Boult agrees with de Grandhomme that he feels his international career is far from over.But he also hopes the quartet’s stint in the Big Bash can show teams around the world why they should take a chance on New Zealand players. “I definitely haven‘t closed it on the New Zealand aspect of [cricket],” Boult says. “I’ve got a lot of passion to still play for my country. And I‘m very proud of what I have achieved to date. “I‘ve said it openly that the World Cup in 2023 in India is a big one for me. I love ODI cricket and I’m not putting a time frame on it. “I‘m pretty sure I speak for everyone that they are excited to get out here and try and make an impact and show a couple of Australians what we can do, that’s for sure.”For now, playing in the Big Bash means spending even more time as a dad to his three kids. And beyond all the contract talk, it’s for that reason he wouldn’t change a thing. “It’s the best job in the world,” Boult says. “I‘ve got my reasons for making my decisions but yeah, the kids would be definitely at the forefront of that.“They wouldn‘t mind if I got 0-100 or 3-3, they just want to see dad out there having fun.”

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