Should Martin Guptill be playing test cricket?
The selectors appear to believe Martin Guptill is one of the top eight batsmen in the country. Certainly he has a very fine List A record, averaging 42 for Auckland with 4 centuries and 4 fifties in 30 matches, and he's translated it to a respectable ODI record.
But in first class cricket for Auckland, he averages only 26 from 19 matches with just one century. Forgetting comparisons with other openers around the country for a moment, since Guptill made his debut he has had the worst first class record of any Auckland opener barring the very new wicketkeeper opener Brad Cachopa and his brother Carl Cachopa.
Auckland Openers since Guptill's First Class Debut
Martin Guptill: 821 runs @ 26.48
Tim McIntosh: 4660 runs @ 39.49
Matt Horne: 5161 runs @ 45.27
Richard Jones: 7064 runs @ 37.57
Jeet Raval: 876 runs @ 43.80
Carl Cachopa: 240 runs @ 20.00
Brad Cachopa: 77 runs @ 19.25
At first glance his test record is respectable, with a century and four fifties from 13 tests at an average of 33, but he averages 245.00 against Bangladesh and his next highest average is against India (27.22).
I think he is a very good List A and ODI player, is excellent off the front foot, and he's great to watch, but I don't think he should be playing test cricket.
The counter argument is the rest of our openers are dire, so we might as well persist with him because he might come through. It does have some merit, because the names Michael Papps, Matthew Bell, Craig Cumming etc don't exactly inspire confidence.
But imo, firstly if Tim McIntosh, who would probably not be our first choice of opener if we were to play our first test ever tomorrow with his suspect technique, can score a few runs at the top level then there is still some hope for the rest.
In any case, with McCullum's move up the order Guptill seems to be the fighting for the number three spot with BJ Watling. I don't believe either should be anywhere near it. I won't mention the number three because you'll all roll your eyes and call me biased (pick Sinclair!), but while it's not fantastic pickings around the traps number three wise either (unless we elevate Williamson now) every single number three batsman currently playing first class cricket has a much better record than Guptill. By all accounts there's some dodgy techniques in that group but Guptill is hardly the epitome of perfection on the backfoot, and his ability to construct an innings is almost non-existent.
Secondly, I think it's about time we stopped devaluing the New Zealand cap. We're not a fantastic side at the moment, but I firmly believe players should earn their keep. Judging by some of the selections these days it's more about fluke/luck than scoring runs. Easy runs to the test side is not helping these young guys either, because players like Daniel Flynn and BJ Watling had only just begun to belong at the first class level when they were elevated to the test side to face the best bowlers in the world. Martin Guptill hasn't even found his feet yet for Auckland and he's in the test team.
It isn't fair on these batsmen and when you see the selectors leaving guys like Williamson to work their way up at their own pace before getting a "softer" position down the order in the test side, you have to wonder whether the selectors are saying "Well, player x isn't the most hyped kid like Williamson/Taylor/Ryder was, but they look good at the crease when they score their thirties and forties so maybe if we give them a crack at the top they will succeed but if they don't it doesn't matter because they weren't talked up much anyway."
I think it would do Martin Guptill a world of good to go play for Auckland and learn his game some more. Our FC cricket isn't the best thing since sliced bread but time at the crease and some short pitched bowling from the Bennett's/Milne's/McClenaghan's/Gillespie's etc would do him no harm at all.