One of the weirdest yarns to be rolled out prior to the World Cup revolved around comparing the 2015 CWC Blackcaps roster to the group of 2019. There are too many differences to rattle off, let alone how other nations in the World Cup like England have shown Aotearoa how to plan and prepare for a major world tournament, making it the silliest idea to preview a World Cup.
Memories of Martin Guptill smacking bowlers to all parts and Tim Southee at the peak of his swinging powers have faded drastically into oblivion. These two were key figures on the 2015 campaign and both operated at a legit world-class level, albeit on home soil in Aotearoa. The current tournament has seen Southee play one of eight possible games and Southee's 9 over stint vs England, featuring 1w @ 7.77rpo is in keeping with his well documented decline over the past few years.
Southee's place in the Blackcaps 1st 11 was questionable heading into the World Cup and his selection felt as though it was depended on other bowlers not snapping up their opportunities. Matt Henry took a bunch of wickets early in the tournament, Lockie Ferguson has been one of the best bowlers overall and that leaves Southee chillin'. Of course, Southee can still play a role if he wants to, but unlike Guptill, expectations weren't overly high for Southee as the kiwis left for England.
Guptill felt primed for a big World Cup. Like most kiwi batsmen, Guptill flourished in his bullying role against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh last summer, smacking three centuries in six games. Having battled a range of injuries in recent years, Guptill missed almost a year of ODI cricket and his last series before facing Sri Lanka in January this year was vs England in early 2018 when Guptill didn't go large, but did manage scores of 50 and 47 in those five games.
The home series vs India saw Guptill register four failures with scores of 5, 15, 13 and 14 in that series. This offers a weird ol' landscape where it doesn't look like there were any warning signs given that Guptill hit three centuries in 2019 prior to the World Cup and then, there were some warning signs as Guptill couldn't do anything vs India. Also consider that since the knock of 50 vs England on February 28th, 2018, Guptill played 13 innings and while he did hit three centuries, he only passed 20 on two other occasions.
That means that Guptill scored less than 20 in 8 of those 13inns. Guptill only passed 50 when he went on to hit centuries and all of this paints a picture of Guppy going big or going home. Keep in mind that Guptill has battled consistent injuries through this period and it's hard enough dealing with cricket form, let alone chucking injury-related confidence into the mix.
Starting his World Cup with 73*, Guptill was at his bullying best against a weaker team. Since then, Guptill has had 4inns of scores less than 10 and 3inns of scores between 20-40. Life as an ODI opener means that you'll have to come to terms with the fact that it is very, very easy to be dismissed for less than 10. Hence when you can face a few overs and get those mid-level scores, you would be wise to make the most of it and Guptill's three scores between 20-40 tell the story of a batsman stuck in a hole.
First came 25 off 14 balls (178.57sr) vs Bangladesh. That's Guptill feeling the buzz of his previous knock vs Sri Lanka (73* @ 143.13sr) and trying to replicate it against a similar bowling attack, which didn't work.
Then Guptill dug in for 35 off 59 balls (59.32sr) vs South Africa. Test Match Guppy made an appearance to try and rectify the duck he got in the previous game vs Afghanistan, with Guptill making a clear point of trying to bat as long as possible. That resulted in Guptill stamping on his stumps from a 132km/h bouncer from Andile Phehlukwayo, a bowler who served up 8.3ov for 1w @ 8.58rpo and kinda lost South Africa that game.
Somehow, big man Guptill who has dispatched many swift bouncers, got hufried by a 132km/h bouncer to the point where he was dismissed hit-wicket. Hit-fucking-wicket.
After a 0 vs West Indies and 5 vs Pakistan, Guptill again dug in vs Australia for 20 off 43 balls (46.51r). Having worked hard against Mithcell Starc, Jason Behrendorff and Pat Cummins, Guptill played all around a straight delivery with a splash of left-arm in-swing to be out lbw.
However Guptill wants to bat, he's kinda screwed. Two of the three scores between 20-40 came with strike-rates below 60, in an ODI World Cup and even then Guptill still finds ways to get out. Here are Guptill's last four dismissals:
The two lbw dismissals came vs lefties, both featuring Guptill playing around his front-pad. Not the beautifully straight bat that we have come to love from Guptill and everything simply looks wonky. Not to mention that Guptill has missed the ball by quite some margin in both cases.
Then we have the shots of a player searching for something. Guptill gets a wide delivery from Mohammad Amir and instead of smoking it to the boundary as peak-Guptill would do, he edges it on to his stumps.
Against England, Guptill gloved one down the leg-side off Jofra Archer. One wide outside off, one heading down leg and in theory you don't need to play at either, most international batsmen would play at both and score runs though. Guptill? Finds a way to get out - this is a bloke who has been out hit-wicket, played on and caught down leg in a World Cup.
Instead of peak Guptill, we are currently dealing with peak Test cricket Guptill who has zero clarity in what he wants to do. That was the major difference between ODI and Test Guptill, making him an ODI legend and now Guptill doesn't know if he should have a whack, dig in or just be free with B-Mac on his shoulder whispering sweet nothings about BYC in his ear.
Guptill is quite clearly out of form and with zero confidence. Perhaps, the confusion around his opening partner has played a role in this as there is a substantial difference in how Colin Munro and Henry Nicholls play, which could then flow into Guptill over-thinking how he needs to play; with Munro, Guptill may feel like he needs to be the rock and with Nicholls, Guptill may feel like he needs to be the mantis. Guppy bruh, just be Guppy.
Of course, that again reflects poorly on the Blackcaps decision-makers who have allowed confusion around the openers fester for too long. The lack of a stable opening combo not only limits how effective either Munro or Nicholls can be, but it's clearly having an impact on Guptill as well.
All of which, won't matter if Guptill can somehow suss this out for the semi-final. With weird selectors, weird planning ideals, less pure talent and resource than other nations, Aotearoa's desperately needs their best players to perform if they are to make waves at major tournaments. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor haven't passed 50 in their last three games and the Blackcaps have lost those three games.
Opportunity beckons for all the Blackcaps to become heroes in the finals stage. As an opener, Guptill has the best chance to command such status and he'll have to do some mushrooms or meditate a whole lot this weekend to seize such opportunity in the semi-final.
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