On the eve of the ODI series opener against India at Eden Park, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson was full of praise for Martin Guptill, calling him as “one of our best white-ball players" while adding that the veteran opener is still motivated to play for the Black Caps.
On Wednesday, Guptill, widely considered as one of New Zealand’s best-ever white-ball openers, was granted a release from the central contract after he was dropped from the ongoing series against India and didn’t get to play a single game in the T20 World Cup in Australia.
“He’s added so much value over the years and been, without doubt, one of our best white-ball players we ever had. There’s no sort of questioning that. It’s a matter of trying to strike that balance, as we’ve seen with a few other players that have also looked at some of those opportunities.
“Obviously, he’s decided to explore a few other options, but as a player and as a member of the team, he’s added so much value over the years. Even at the T20 World Cup, without getting a playing opportunity, he was outstanding at offering to all the players in the group.
“Absolutely, he’ll be missed, but he’s not retired, so there’s a lot to keep working through over the next period to get a feel for how the picture looks," said Williamson in the pre-match press conference.
Guptill’s decision to leave the central contract comes after some of his team-mates opted for the same route. Fast-bowling all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme retired from international cricket after a contract from the Big Bash League (BBL).
Fellow all-rounder James Neesham rejected a central contract offer, after taking up various T20 franchise league assignments. Notably, left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult too left the central contract to spend more time with his family — and take up lucrative opportunities in various T20 leagues like BBL and ILT20.
“It’s a bit of a moving landscape, so it’s a matter of weighing that up and seeing how it can work moving forward. He has not retired. He is still motivated to keep playing and getting better. As a player, you go through different periods, go through different stages. It is about managing it."
“I’ve had a brief chat with him and a few chats with him prior as well. I’ve known Martin for a long time and he’s been an incredible player for New Zealand. Obviously, news broke yesterday and he’s made decisions to play in some of these other leagues, but still available for New Zealand as well," added Williamson on his team-mates letting go of central contracts.
Guptill’s tally currently stands at 7,346 runs at an average of 41.73 in 198 ODIs, with a highest individual score of 237 not out. In T20Is, he has amassed 3,531 and sits comfortably at the top of leading run-getters list, averaging 31.81 with a highest score of 105. Williamson was non-committal on whether Guptill will be back for New Zealand in time for the ODI World Cup in India next year.
“In our most recent series, he was very much in the squad and then you narrow down to a smaller squad when you play at home. It’s a little bit more challenging to fit everybody in. We’re always have different discussions around the team and the direction and with individuals, so there’s always different chats happening. You’re looking at the next series and different periods of time, trying to grow depth… there are a lot of factors to discuss and try to stay on top of.
“We’ve had a number of conversations about a lot of players, as we always do when we look at series and consider different factors in terms of guys getting experience and bringing players through. We’re always having those discussions."
Guptill’s omission means that pressure to fill his big boots at the top is on youngster Finn Allen, whose ability to give attacking starts means he gets a go against India in the ODIs. Allen burst on the big stage when he smashed 42 off just 16 balls against Australia in their T20 World Cup opener, but has had a lean run since then.
“In cricket, you’re always going through different lessons and you get taught a number of different lessons. As a young player, Finn’s got an incredible amount of talent, we’ve seen that, and he’s continuing to learn as well."
“They’re all very valuable experiences to have and he’s no different to any other player, whether you bat, bowl or play a few more games. That’s just the nature of sport. and he’s got a great appetite to keep improving and developing as a player," concluded Williamson.