Black Caps opener Martin Guptill has gone back to his old provincial coach for help to break out of his dramatic form slump.
Guptill is set to open the innings in New Zealand's Twenty20 tour-opener against England at Eden Park tomorrow.
But he will pad up with just 55 runs to his name from his last seven international innings, including three ducks and three single-figure efforts after spectacularly losing his way on the just-completed tour of South Africa.
His unbeaten 101 against the Proteas before Christmas, where he virtually won the second T20 by himself, is a distant memory.
The 26-year-old resisted any temptations to play for the Aces before facing England but he has tapped into some Auckland brainpower.
"I've been working with Mark O'Donnell since I got home," Guptill said of getting some tips from the Auckland coach who elevated him into the first class scene from the New Zealand under-19s in 2006.
"He has watched me play since then and right up till now. There are a couple of things we have worked on in the nets over the last couple of days and it's coming along nicely. I've just got to keep working at it."
Guptill revealed these adjustments were both technical and mental.
"Yeah, a little bit of both. It's a pretty mentally draining game this one and if you can just get your head around it and carry on what you can control, then you are going to go all right.
"You have to go out and trust your game - that's all you can do."
Guptill, New Zealand's current player of the year, felt a break was better than trying to force things in the domestic game.
"I think I just needed to get away from the game for a bit and have a bit of time to myself to think about the game and get back into the gym and do something a bit different," he said, adding that he had got plenty of help from Black Caps trainer Chris Donaldson with his general fitness.
Guptill, who has made no secret of his respect for Ross Taylor, will no doubt seek a word or two of advice from the axed Black Caps skipper, as he did before battering the Proteas in East London, calling Taylor back in New Zealand on the eve of his stunning century.
He said having Taylor back in the mix was a boost.
"Ross is a fantastic player, he's a world class player and it's good to have him back in the side. But he's also a close friend, so it's nice to have him back in the side to bounce ideas off."
While Taylor yesterday declared his reintegration into the Black Caps setup under coach Mike Hesson as "a work in progress", Guptill said it was time to move on from the controversy that has dogged the team and the sport since Taylor's axing last December in the wake of a rare test win overseas against Sri Lanka.
Guptill said there was no need to "clear the air" when Taylor and the team gathered in Auckland.
"It's in the past now. All we can concentrate on is how we prepare for Saturday," Guptill said.
He didn't believe there were any cliques in the team.
"I don't think so. That's all water under the bridge now. Everyone is good mates in the team. We are just going to get along well and play well together as a team on Saturday night."
Guptill knows a fair bit of heat will come on him to get things going again at the top of the order.
He is one of the increasingly rare players who fronts in all three forms of the international game. He admitted that was demanding in terms of making adjustments.
"You do get caught a little bit but it's something I'm working at to be able to combat changing forms so regularly throughout the season."
After a good T20 series against South Africa, Guptill was exposed on the test scene by the Proteas' quick bowlers and his nightmare extended into the one-day series which the Black Caps surprisingly won.
Subsequently, Guptill failed to attract a bid when he was put up for auction for the Indian Premier League with a US$100,000 minimum price against his name last Sunday.
"It's just one of those things ... you get picked up or you don't," he shrugged. "I've got an opportunity to get stuck into a bit of training for the English series later in the year."
Guptill certainly wants to continue in the test scene and still sees himself as an opener.
"Absolutely. Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game and I want to be able to succeed at this for as long as I can.
"Opening is where I enjoy batting, that's where I want to bat. I've got a lot of hard work to do, but I'm looking forward to getting into it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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