New Zealand has forced a decider match in an ODI series in India for the second year in a row. Kane Williamson’s side is arguably the only team to have consistently given a tough fight to the home dominant Team India; although the visitors went close to winning both the finals, they choked at the end but with the way they adapted to the tricky sub-continent conditions where other touring parties have only struggled, the BlackCaps certainly won respect. During both the tours of New Zealand – 2016 and 2017 – when asked which New Zealander batsman would play the key role, the answer would either be Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor or Martin Guptill. As these three are the only experienced batsmen in a young Kiwi side and it was crucial for them to step up and lay a foundation for the others.
While Taylor and Williamson played their roles at some certain point in the series, Guptill has failed to contribute on the top. It is always crucial for the openers to give the required start to their team so that the batsmen following them can play their natural game without any pressure. Before the start of New Zealand’s tour of India this year, the visitors had a couple of concerns and it was important for them to find solutions to avoid any ruckus in between the series. Since the Champions Trophy 2017, New Zealand have issues with their middle and top-order. Ever since Brendon McCullum retired, the BlackCaps have struggled to fill his shoes on the top; having tried multiple options, they have not got the desired results.
While the 25-year-old Tom Latham’s performance at No. 5 has reduced the middle-order woes for New Zealand, the opening troubles continue to persist. Colin Munro was made Guptill’s opening partner for the India tour and by doing so, Munro became Guptil’s fourth opening partner after Tom Latham, Dean Brownlie, and Luke Ronchi. Forget Munro, the experienced opening batsman, Guptill, who has been in international cricket for eight years now still seems to have hitches with his consistency.
While New Zealand Captain Williamson has shown immense faith in Guptill, the latter did not live up to it when it mattered the most. Recently, during the Champions Trophy, Williamson marked Guptill as New Zealand’s current best white-ball player after the retirement of McCullum. “Martin Guptill’s possibly our best white ball cricketer. He’s very destructive and has been playing very good cricket. Hopefully, he can continue that,” he said. McCullum’s retirement left huge gaping holes in the Kiwi top-order and these are the times when the team has required their best option to prove why is being considered the next best in limited-overs.
In the three ODIs against India in the recently ended ODI series, Guptill had scores of 32, 11 and 10 to his name and these numbers surely don’t show that he is New Zealand’s prime option in the white-ball game. Guptill had an experience of 15 ODIs in India before he played the 2017 tour; even then he could not make any impact. For his potential with the bat, an average less than 30 in India does not show good on his part. A player can be called the best if he performs across the globe and since Williamson has reckoned that Guptill is their best one-day batsman, the former does not have the numbers to prove that in certain parts of the world.
The last time Guptill played an impact-full knock was earlier this year when South Africa toured the oceanic continent. He went ablaze during his unbeaten knock of 180 off just 138 balls. New Zealand won the match and needed a victory in the final game to square off the series. When the hosts needed their best batsman to take charge, Guptill threw away his wicket, scoring just four runs, and New Zealand ended up losing the match and the series 2-3.
The 31-year-old has a double century in the ODIs under his belt to defend him. During the World Cup 2015, he smashed a century against Bangladesh followed by a double hundred against the West Indies in the quarter-final.
However, keeping his inconsistency intact, he put the entire load on the other batsmen in the two most crucial matches the team had ever played – semi-final and final. While Grant Elliot donned the cap of the warrior and successfully took his side into the World Cup final; unfortunately, the team succumbed to the pressure of the intense situation while chasing a huge total put up by Australia as they lost early wickets.
Ever since his debut, Guptill has maintained an image of producing a blazing innings and then going quiet for next several matches. This is something New Zealand does not want and especially when the next World Cup is nearing and there is very little time left for them to solve these problems. There is already a hiccup in finding the suitable replacement of McCullum on the top, New Zealand will go into shambles if they have to look for another opener due to Guptill’s inconsistency. No player is bigger than a team; regardless of his experience, Guptill should be dropped if he does not show signs of consistency any time soon.