As people dissect the dramatic, topsy-turvey, controversial climax to this morning’s epic World Cup Final loss by the Black Caps to England, one player will inevitably carry the majority of the blame (from those inclined to do so).
Poor old Martin Guptill aka ‘Guppy’. So often a hero for our national side, recently a wounded warrior struggling to bat well under intense World Cup pressure.
He’s been a much-loved mainstay of Black Caps cricket since his debut against the West Indies in 2009 – a match in which he announced himself emphatically with an unbeaten 122 off 135 deliveries. Black Cap fans sat up and took notice that day, all of us hopeful there would be many more quality knocks to come. Over the following decade there certainly have been. He’s amassed 6626 runs at a very healthy average of 42.20 with 16 tons and 35 fifties.
His fielding has also proven excellent over the years and he always puts his best foot forward with media interviews, team cohesion and careful off-field behaviour. When in form, he is a dynamic, powerful, intimidatingly aggressive batsman. When he’s middling it, he gets the Black Caps off to a flying start and often sets an excellent foundation for the rest of the team to build on.
Now back to the World Cup – there’s no denying it, he’s had a nightmare tournament. A string of poor innings has yielded far too few runs; he’s looked horribly out of form. It has been painfully obvious that he’s not seeing the ball well and aside from his one successful innings early in the Cup, his confidence at the crease looked almost non-existent. In total, his 11 innings yielded only 205 runs at an average of 20.5.
I thought he should’ve been taken out of the firing line before the semi-final. Yes, he executed a crucial run-out in excellent fashion, yes his fielding is always very good, but his lack of confidence with the bat meant that he was under far too much pressure. A World Cup final is no place for a batsman who has lost faith in his technique.
I think the Black Caps management got this wrong. The selectors showed a huge amount of faith in Guptill – too much faith in the end.
Regardless of this, there is no doubt in my mind that Guptill was trying his heart out and he will be absolutely shattered by his poor form throughout the tournament and in particular his misfortune in this morning’s final.
I dearly hope that at the age of 32 he doesn’t now retire from international cricket. I know that some people may call for him to do that, but they are wrong. In my opinion that would just be a bitter knee-jerk response. I’m certain Guptill still has much more to give for his country at ODI level.
He needs what we all need from time-to-time – a chance to regroup. I personally hope he takes at least a couple of months off from competitive cricket, goes somewhere warm and peaceful for a long holiday with his family and then comes back and plays some County Cricket back in England. That way he can repair his technique and vanquish some demons in the process.
The last thing Guptill needs is to be attacked by punitive NZ cricket fans. The only villain in this morning’s epic final is the ICC rulebook, which clearly needs to be reviewed. Guppy if you’re reading this: chin up mate, regroup, relax, have some light-hearted fun, pick yourself up again and come back with a vengeance.