South Africa in New Zealand 2016-17 March 2, 2017

Guptill the talk of town and country

There is a plan for Martin Guptill to challenge for a Test middle-order berth in the future, but he is priceless to New Zealand's one-day side, and that should remain his priority
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Martin Guptill's 180* was the fourth-highest score when chasing in ODIs © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

New Zealand was talking about cricket on Thursday morning. There has been significant interest in the contests against South Africa, but there was a hint of the 2015 World Cup vibe in the aftermath of Martin Guptill's unbeaten 180 in Hamilton.

It was a shame the innings did not have a bigger crowd to witness it than 2264 - a result, largely, of the reasonably late change of venue when the game was moved from Napier - but Guptill was a main topic of breakfast TV and radio while there was a bigger-than-average media huddle to speak to coach Mike Hesson in Auckland.

"As good as it gets," Hesson said. "It's hard to beat quarter-final 200 [against West Indies], but that came close. He hit the ball well at training, but I don't think anyone expected that. His composure in the chase showed he was never satisfied."

Guptill is a cricketer of contrasts. A one-day record to stand up against anyone - and above many - but Test numbers that, despite the occasional sparkle, are nondescript. That should not matter a jot. It is perfectly natural for Guptill to want the chance to improve his long-form numbers, but he changes the dynamic of New Zealand's one-day top order so much that it should remain the priority.

If he is part of a New Zealand side that wins the Champions Trophy this year, or the World Cup in 2019, that will be his legacy. Not whether he can lift his Test average from 29 to 32. Against the white ball, there is no one in New Zealand who can replicate what Guptill provides. It certainly looks like Kings XI Punjab have picked up a bargain for the IPL.

He was dropped from the Test side at the beginning of the home summer and won't be making a swift return. Hesson is not a man to suddenly make a u-turn and confirmed he would not feature against South Africa.

His latest run, from being recalled against England in 2015, was 16 matches in which he averaged 28.93. That came after a stellar World Cup - further evidence that success in one format does not mean success in another. There was the occasional highlight, such as his 156 against Sri Lanka, but only five other half-centuries in 30 innings, although one of those did come in his last Test against India at Indore.

If there is a future for Guptill in Test cricket, it will be in the middle order with New Zealand having hatched a plan with Auckland for him to bat in that position when he returns to Plunket Shield action. He averages 43.37 from nine innings in positions four to six, mostly in 2010, though that is padded considerably by 245 runs in one match against Bangladesh.

"Martin and I have certainly talked about Test cricket a lot and he certainly gave batting at the top of the order a fairly good crack," Hesson said. "But the middle order is something we are keen to explore at the first-class level first. Martin and Auckland Cricket are certainly receptive to that, which is great. At the moment, it's a difficult spot to find. Our Test team has won four on the bounce and the middle order is performing well, but certainly something we'll look to explore."

While Guptill's most recent spell in the Test side was ultimately unconvincing, Hesson said that a greater experience had helped him deal with the fluctuating fortunes of the game, as evidenced by the fact that while his Test form oscillated, the two years from the start of the 2015 World Cup have seen him become the second-most prolific one-day batsman behind David Warner, who he is quickly catching.

"Cricket does that, you have more failures than success, and as a young player, you have to cope with that," Hesson said. "Martin's confident in his game and has reached a level of maturity where he's consistent and perhaps doesn't ride the highs and lows younger players do. He's comfortable in his skin and batting well."

Batting well is an understatement, and Guptill can stand among the finest limited-overs batsmen of all-time. New Zealand will hope starting at Eden Park on Saturday he gets the country talking again.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • tonyla5315114 on March 3, 2017, 23:06 GMT

    @Workhorse India - oh please keep quiet. You need to see a doctor and treat that case of verbal dysentery.

    As an Aussie, can I say how exciting Guptil is to watch in ODI's. Imperious at his best. And one has to admire NZ's cricket - a base of 4.5 million rugby fanatics from which to select an XI vs India's one trick pony cricket fanatic 1.3 billion base. Enough said.

    Tony L @ Melbourne

  • Altaf on March 3, 2017, 11:24 GMT

    He is the only batsman in ODI history to score 180+ thrice.

  • Bill on March 3, 2017, 4:48 GMT

    Its grasping at straws yeah.. mixed metaphors & mixed idioms anywho The key for Guptil (everyone starts calling him 'Guppy' when he performs. I will refrain) is that he has confidence in ODI cricket. He sees the start & finish line so clearly. He can slog but for the most part plays proper cricket strokes so he always looks nice & steady at the crease. When he swings he swings with the full flourish which is a wonderful sight. One big problem is that old chestnut of being too crease bound. I am always happy once a guy like that get's a nice big stride in when hitting in front of the wicket. He hits it like thunder square too. The pull shots are prett exhilarating to watch. He is not AB Devilliers. He is not Virat Kohli, but he is carving a name for himself in the annuls of cricket history.

  • Bazza on March 3, 2017, 4:46 GMT

    @workhorse.... Crawl back from whence you came please and stick to the topic. This is about a fantastic ODI knock by a great NZ ODI player!

  • Bill on March 3, 2017, 4:05 GMT

    @ workhorse India ... as per usual a strange fellow turns up & starts going on about India. Yes. We all know one thing about India. It's not a good thing either. @ blackcaps. Your a hardcore supporter but your grabbing at straws all the time. He had 47 tests to make it as a test player. He plays another amazing knock in ODI & you think it will translate into test cricket. Can't you work out that it's not always the case? Form in one format doesn't guarantee form in another. His problem is either mental or technical. I think it's mental. If it's technical then it's always going to be a problem for him. Remember Mark Greatbatch. Prime example. Started as a dour (but strong) middle order player. Someone threw a coin & tried him as an opener in the 92 WC They remain some of the most unbelievable innings i have ever seen in ODI cricket. He went back to tests. Talk about hit & miss. The poor guy looked all at sea the majority of the time. He lost his way as to how he should play.

  • davidm6488276 on March 2, 2017, 23:51 GMT

    INDIA will dominate this opinion as INDIA are the superpower of cricket. Don't know why the fuss about this newzealand player as he does not compare to the might of indian players. people still fail to realise that TEAM INDIA were best team in 2015 ICC World Cup and all true fans know this.

  • Yasein on March 2, 2017, 22:04 GMT

    Off topic but the Icc champions trophy groups are extremely unbalanced. Australia England and New Zealand in the same group? really now? And South africa get to play India Pakistan and Sri Lanka? Really now? New Zealand and England should advance along with India and SA potentially setting up another SA vs NZ semi final. But Id rather play India. South africa is the best team in the world currently. First we have to beat one of Australia/England. Then its basically a guranteed spot in the semis.

  • Yasein on March 2, 2017, 21:43 GMT

    If Brendon can average 39 at the #5 spot in test cricket, I know sure as hell Guppy is capable of averaging 40+. It makes sense since Guptill is technically a better batsman than Brendon.

  • Yasein on March 2, 2017, 21:40 GMT

    No one in this Black Caps side that works harder than guppy. He'll find the code to crack Test cricket

  • Wayne on March 2, 2017, 21:18 GMT

    ODI specialist guys so leave it at that.... Although we have a middle order "batsman" who averages a lesser 22, gets branded as an all rounder, retains his spot, hardly ever has to bowl and yet we consistently rank in the top 3 in test cricket....Go figure...

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