Much as I admire Martin Guptill, I don’t believe his dismal form this summer warrants him retaining his Black Caps T20 opening spot for the series against Australia ahead of 21-year-old former Saint Kentigern College pupil Finn Allen.
An attacking batsman who scored a magnificent unbeaten 237 against the West Indies in Wellington during the 2015 ODI World Cup, Guptill is also an exceptionally gifted fieldsman.
At 34, however, age and injury are beginning to take its toll on a man who failed to reach double figures in three of his last four Super Smash matches for the Auckland Aces.
Before that he totalled just 46 in three T20 innings against Pakistan.
Contrast that form with the hard-hitting Allen’s 56.88 Super Smash average.
Allen scored 512 runs at a strike rate of 193 and took just 19 balls to score one of his 50s.
With Guptill missing his last two matches for the Aces with a hamstring injury, he will need to pass a fitness test to retain his place against standby Allen whose move to Wellington was a major loss for Auckland.
With South African-born Devon Conway’s bat also blazing, the Wellington Firebirds have been an exciting batting side.
Auckland’s Glenn Phillips is another fast scorer, as is Colin Munro who wasn’t selected despite his outstanding form for the Perth Scorchers.
The squad is: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett. Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodi, Tim Southee.
The five-match series against Australia starts at Christchurch’s Hagley Park on February 22.
Meanwhile, who would have predicted Luna Rossa would lead Ineos Team UK 4-0 in the best of 13 Prada Cup America’s Cup final? Or that aggressive Jimmy Spithill would outwit Sir Ben Ainslie at every start?
With mastery of the start so important the Italian entry has been able to dictate throughout despite the fact Ineos Team UK were unbeaten in the round robin thus earning strong favouritism for the final.
However Luna Rossa gained on every mark, were superior in the tacking duel and looked more stable with Ainslie’s yacht almost capsizing on one occasion.
The racing experience gained by the challengers should give the eventual winner a huge advantage against Team New Zealand’s crew when they challenge for the America’s Cup.
Mastering the start is something the otherwise brilliant Peter Burling has yet to master.
Finally, at last New Zealand has found an exciting middle-distance runner to continue Nick Willis’ legacy.
In finishing third in the New Balance meeting in Staten Island, New York, Tauranga’s Sam Tanner clocked 3:34.72 to better seventh placed Willis’ NZ indoor record of 3:35.8s set in Birmingham 10 years ago. Tanner is only 20.
Another who would have got tremendous satisfaction from his win over South Canterbury’s world shot put champion Tom Walsh was Takapuna’s Jack Gill who threw 21.52m in the Porritt Classic in Hamilton.
A former multiple world age group champion and record-holder, Gill won by 7cm.
It is the kind of competition both will relish leading up to the Tokyo Olympics if they are not postponed once more.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author.