Strike rate will take care of itself if the boundaries and singles come on time, says Martin Guptill
There are two things Martin Guptill does not like to waste: balls and words. When he’s at the crease, Guppy, as Martin is popularly known, looks to score off every opportunity. Whether it’s planting his front foot down the ground and launching into a big drive, or waiting for the ball to come to him and working it around the corner for a single, Guptill is always looking to score.
Off the field, at interactions with the media at least, Guptill says as little as he can get away with. It’s not that he’s overly suspicious of the media, as some players tend to get as the years wear them down. It’s just what Guptill is like. One of the reasons for this reserve is that inquisitive reporters spent more time on Guptill’s three missing toes than his cricket for a lot of his earlier career.
Too often for his liking, Guptill would be asked about the forklift accident that resulted in him losing toes as a 13-year-old. Martin, who was helping out his father Peter in their trucking and storage business at the time, was left with no choice but lose those toes, and as he told your correspondent at the last ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies, he “learned to live without those toes.” Martin’s father Peter was a regular in the club cricket circuit, and, to ease the pain, got in touch with New Zealand manager Jeff Crowe to see if a cricketer could visit him at the hospital where he was recovering. Stephen Fleming stopped by and made the young man’s day.
So much water has now flown under that bridge that Martin can laugh when his team-mates affectionately refer to him as “Marty Two-Toes” from time to time. If Guptill’s batting is efficient and from the no-nonsense school of cricket, it was his fielding that first caught the eye. When India toured New Zealand in 2009, Rahul Dravid was so impressed with Guptill’s fielding (without knowing about Guptill’s childhood accident) that he thought him a bright prospect for an IPL contract.
Today, Guptill is a central figure in the New Zealand batting line-up, so much so that Ross Taylor hangs back in the batting order, allowing the opener to do his thing. Soon after the Super Over against Sri Lanka, in which Guptill was brilliantly caught on the ropes at long-off by Tillakaratne Dilshan, Taylor was asked if it was a mistake to open with Guptill. “They say cricket’s a game of inches, and we saw that today,” said Taylor. “If his hit had carried half a foot longer, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
New Zealand knows it has two must-win games coming up, including the delicious prospect of knocking defending champion, England, out of the competition. But New Zealand is not looking so much at the opposition, but what it needs to do, something that’s summed up perfectly by Guptill’s own approach to batting. “Personally, I don’t keep an eye on the strike rate or balls faced,” said Guptill. .”If you can get your boundaries and your ones and twos, the strike rate is going to take care of itself.”
At the moment, Guptill is just trying to make the most of how the Pallekele pitch is playing. “It’s a nice wicket, it allows you to play your shots and hit sixes,” said Guptill, who conceded that that conditions were liable to change without notice. “It is hard to know. We played on a fresh pitch last night, which was good with the new ball, it skidded on a bit, and then it started to hold up a bit towards the end. Every pitch gets a bit of wear eventually and the nature of the pitches in the subcontinent says they tend to wear a little bit quicker.”
The big question is whether England can stem the rot at the top, and adjust to more trying conditions. Either way, it will be up against a New Zealand team that’s only thinking positively.