Gutsy Guptill falls short but earns respect
I'm writing this after watching Martin Guptill fall three runs short of what would have been a well-deserved century.
A 100 in the first innings of a test, on an overseas tour, is one of the most outstanding achievements an opening batsman can aspire to, and it would have been just reward for the Auckland Aces player after he turned down a six figure salary in the Indian Premier League to improve his craft in English county cricket.
What makes his sacrifice even more significant is that he was the world's top ranked Twenty20 player until a few weeks ago, so he could have demanded a hefty sum for his talents.
But Guptill has never chosen the easy path.
Having played against and with him at club level he's always struck me as incredibly dedicated player, who undoubtedly had the talent, but didn't couple that to a large ego like many players of rare ability.
In cricket circles, stories of Guptill's work ethic and loyalty are legendary. One story is that he used to get up in the wee small hours to work at a trucking yard so he could train all afternoon, and another story I've heard is that after finishing an arduous international series he returned to play for his club side the very next day despite jet lag and niggling injuries.
For Guptill to come so close to what would have been a remarkable feat, doesn't take away from what was a great innings and he's set up his side for what should be a large first innings.
The Aucklander is the cream of a crop of talented Westies who are starting to feature in New Zealand Cricket's stocks and it shows the hard work at clubs like Suburbs New Lynn and Waitakere have paid off.
In the test squad, there is Guptill, and his former Suburbs New Lynn team mate Tarun Nethula.
And until recently the pair had their club wicketkeeper Reece Young also in the wider squad.
In the twenty20 side you have former Waitakere City club member Ronnie Hira, and he's recently been joined by Waitakere City's Anura Kitchen in the Twenty20 training squad.
While I played most of my cricket in central Auckland, I've always admired the western clubs for their hard-nosed attitude to the game and also for their lack of snobbishness that is often associated with other clubs.
And it is these values of hard-work and humility that come out in Guptill's play and is what New Zealand Cricket needs if it's to become a true force in the world game.
Guptill might not have passed 100, but I'll take his 97 runs of hard graft over Taylor and McCullum's short-lived and flashy under-par totals.