Kolkata: When Martin Guptill walks out with the New Zealand team for their opening match of T20 World Cup 2021 in the UAE against Pakistan in Sharjah on October 26, it will be his 12th ICC event for the Black Caps in as many years of international cricket.
The contribution of this 35-year-old opening batter, one of the most destructive players in the white ball game, in the Black Caps’ consistent showing in the ICC events may have often gone under the radar - but the self-effacing Kiwi is ready to give it his best shot again. And yes, Guptill could be one of the go-to persons for chief coach Gary Stead about the local conditions as he has played a lot of his cricket in the UAE, including the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Abu Dhabi only in June.
‘‘Yes, it’s been a bit of ride - but it’s always an exciting opportunity to represent your country. I will do the best that I can,’’ Guptill told New Zealand Cricket from Dubai. The senior pro, along with other members of the New Zealand team who were not a part of the ongoing IPL in the UAE, flew into Dubai straight from Pakistan after their white ball series was cancelled there. A number of others, like captain Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson are now joining the squad in fits and starts from their team bubbles in the IPL.
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Guptill, alongwith a number of other team members, have already managed to get in eight training sessions and feels that they were getting used to the heat and humidity of Dubai. ‘‘As international cricketers, we play across the world and need to adapt to situations like the heat and humidity here. The weather is changing from the time I last played here in PSL and we have had some great training sessions,’’ said Guptill, who along with the other players who came from Pakistan, had to undergo a six-day quarantine as per the ICC rules.
It’s a sheer coincidence that New Zealand, runners-up in the 2019 50-overs World Cup due to the contentious boundary count rule, will be opening their campaign against Babar Azam’s men - against whom they had pulled out due to a perceived security threat. Asked if there would be an extra edge in the contest, Guptill dismissed any such idea: ‘‘We will be treating it like any other game. They are a tough opponent and we need to bring out the A game to beat them and get off our campaign strongly.’’
One of the few international batsmen who has a double century to his name in ODIs, along with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar or Virendra Sehwag, Guptill is also an exceptional fielder - and Indian cricket fans are possibly yet to forget the sight of a fully stretched Guptill running out Mahendra Singh Dhoni to scuttle their hopes in the 2019 semi-final.
Asked for his take on the nature of wickets that will be on offer during the showpiece in the UAE, the New Zealander felt they could be a little tired after the IPL. ‘‘From what I have seen of the IPL on TV, they looked a bit up-and-down and we could have a few low-scoring games,’’ he said.
New Zealand is placed in Group 2 of the tournament alongside India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
New Zealand’s schedule for ICC T20 World Cup
Tuesday, October 26, 2021: vs Pakistan, at Sharjah Cricket Stadium (6 pm UAE)
Sunday, October 31, 2021: vs India, at Dubai International Cricket Stadium (6 pm)
Wednesday, November 3, 2021: vs Qualifier (B1), at Dubai International Cricket Stadium (2 pm)
Friday, November 5, 2021: vs Qualifier (A2), at Sharjah Cricket Stadium (2pm)
Sunday, November 7, 2021: vs Afghanistan, at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi. (2 pm)