Usually, when a player pitches in with a match-winning performance, he gets plenty of praise. New Zealand opener Martin Guptill deserves the same for he batted beautifully against Sri Lanka at Dunedin to set up the easy victory for the Kiwis. At the same time, it is imperative that Guptill looks upon the performance as a new beginning in Test cricket, and tries to be more consistent from this point. After 37 games, Guptill has one of the most disappointing records for a Test opener -- 2142 runs at an average of 30.6 with only 3 hundreds and 14 fifties.
Despite being the opener of the team, Guptill hadn't scored a Test century in nearly four seasons. It was incredible that he managed to keep his place in the side in spite of such a long barren run. But now that he has managed to break the barren streak, and has hit some form, it is important for him to ensure that this leads to a run of big scores. Guptill has been lucky to maintain his place in the Test team thus far, and he must look to make the most of the opportunities that are coming his way. He cannot be satisfied with the match-winning effort against Sri Lanka, for it was a performance that was highly overdue.
There are a couple of areas of his game which Guptill needs to seriously tighten up -- one is definitely his performance against bigger teams. It is clear from his Test record till now that he struggles against the stronger sides. If you look at his three Test hundreds till date, they have come against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo, Bangladesh at Hamilton and now against a weak Sri Lanka at Dunedin. The gap between the three Test hundreds is also rather prominent -- 9,16 and 37. With Guptill, it is not about form, but against which side he is playing that often decides his numbers.
One need not look too far away for proof. The series in Australia is the most recent example. While Guptill was impressive in the practice games, he found it very difficult to score runs during the three Test matches. In fact, he never even got close to a fifty leave alone the hundred mark. More than the lack of runs, more worrisome was the fact that he never ever looked in any sort of control against the likes of Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and co. And, this has been the pattern of Guptill's Test career so far, which needs to change quickly if he wants to be rated highly in the format.
The second disappointing aspect of Guptill's Test career has been his lack of focus and concentration issues. He has perpetually got into the 20s and 30s, and then has either played a rash stroke or a lazy shot to get out. This is one of the reasons he is averaging so low in the five-day game as opposed to the 40 plus average he has in one-dayers. This lack of competence was on display against Australia as well. As an opener, Guptill cannot afford such lapses. He has been lucky to have survived so long in the Test side in spite of underperforming constantly. But, he can use the Dunedin hundred to reinvigorate his Test career.
-- By A Cricket Analyst