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Cricket news - Martin Guptill and working around 'the wait'

Guptill has made peace with waiting for his chance in the IPL

It was quite a challenging start to 2019 for Martin Guptill. It started with him having to work around his troubled back - from the spasms to the bulging discs. Once that improved and he could resume playing cricket, he went ahead and worked with his Auckland coach to sort out the issues that had crept into his batting during the India series, wherein he wasn't loading as he used to and as a result playing the wrong lines. He saw a lot of footages, worked hard to correct his mistakes, cracked a couple of tons against Bangladesh, and was all set to carry forward that form and momentum into the World Cup.

And then came the IPL.

Guptill may be one of the finest white-ball batsmen currently, someone who just seems to excel more as the format shortens. Yet, for an ego-jammer that IPL can be, no matter how good you are, there are times when you just don't find a place in the side. The best in the world - a la Glenn McGrath, Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting - have had to take the backseat at various times.

Guptill plays for New Zealand, various T20 leagues across the world and nowhere but the IPL does he find himself not being a certainty in the playing eleven. However, a few rejections at the IPL auctions later, he seems to have made peace with what's coming his way. "I've gone in to the auctions a few times and not been picked up. So, [now] I go with low expectations. So that if I get picked up it's great, if I don't, I'm not too disappointed," he says.

In the last four years, he has been picked up thrice, by three different franchises - Mumbai Indians, Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad - and never been chosen as the frontline opener. While at one end, it speaks of interests from more teams, at the other, it also reflects that he has also been disposed off as easily. It's not too hard to imagine how such a cycle can deflate a player's confidence. However, Guptill believes he has found the secret to be in the right mind space in such situations.

Preparing for another season where he has started on the bench again, he had come prepared. "It [not being in the XI] is something that you have to get around before you come. Personally, for me, I know I'm not going to play straight away. I knew that a lot earlier. So I've got my head around that."

"When I come here, I don't expect to play straight away. It was the same in Kings XI as well. [My job is] to help the guys who are playing and keeping myself fit for the games I get somewhere down the track. I'm hopeful of getting the opportunity when the time comes. It's one of those things: you bide your time till you get in."

The ability to be in that space largely stems from his philosophy on the game itself, which reads: "If you're not enjoying your cricket, you shouldn't be playing."

He believes there is still an opportunity to gain something out of such tournaments. His list, apart from the "opportunity to make good friendships with overseas players", also includes getting a new set of coaches to look into his game. "It is quite good to have a fresh pair of eyes to see what's wrong with your game and what they pick up from it," he says. "We have VVS Laxman, what a player he was. We have guys like him to see and learn things off. It is quite an exciting prospect."

And by no means is he letting his time with the team, even if in the reserves, go wasted. He has charted out a few targets for himself. "It's a great place to learn how to play spin. I'm looking forward to getting into the nets and learning how to play him [Rashid Khan]. Because we've got a game against him in the World Cup this year. He is an amazing bowler, very hard to face because he bowls so quick. I'll be trying to play him and put some plans in place on how to face him at the World Cup."

But unlike his previous two seasons, the dynamics of the tournament are a little different this time around. With the likes of Rashid, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Nabi and Jonny Bairstow likely to leave the tournament in the second half for national duty, Sunrisers will be left with only three overseas players in the side, almost guaranteeing him a place without much pressure of producing instant results.

However, he doesn't want to think too far ahead, and believes a chance could come his way even sooner than expected. "I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I know there are lots of net sessions from now and the second half of the tournament. You just have to keep working hard. Cricket is a funny game. You never know, someone might get injured and you can get in. I just want to take each net session as it comes, work hard and when the opportunity comes, make it count."

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