New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has thrown a lifeline to struggling opener Martin Guptill.
The 26-year-old has battled for runs since being named New Zealand Cricket's player of 2012 and there has been talk of him being sent back to first-class cricket to re-find his form.
Hesson didn't guarantee Guptill's place in the test series against England, starting on March 6, but the signs look good for the Aucklander.
"Martin's a very good player, but opening the batting in South Africa is a tough spot and a number of guys have gone over there and struggled," Hesson said.
The coach confirmed "a lot" of time had been spent with Guptill working on his game, on the tour.
His limited overs form is fine, but his test cricket numbers make for sorry reading.
Guptill hasn't passed 50 in his last nine test innings and in his last six tests - two each against India, Sri Lanka and South Africa - he's scored 167 runs at an average of 13.92.
But Hesson hinted Guptill was too talented and too important long term to not to be persevered with. Guptill's issues are technical; few question his ability.
The same powerful bottom hand that allows him to on-drive so well and to hit over the top in shorter forms of the game is letting him down when he tries to defend in tests. Guptill pushes too hard and is getting caught behind or by the slips.
Hesson observed Guptill had a successful record in New Zealand.
"We don't have the depth that we have in other forms of the games as we do in test cricket. We have to make sure we select the right people and show faith in them."
Guptill is one of four New Zealanders in the Indian Premier League auction on Sunday. He, Jesse Ryder, Nathan McCullum and Scott Styris were named yesterday among the 101-strong list for franchises to bid on, and all set their reserve price at US$100,000.
Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori and James Franklin all have existing IPL contracts.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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