Depending on the outcome of an x-ray on an injured finger, Martin Guptill may have played his final innings for Derbyshire this season. He may or may not be able to play against Warwickshire at the County Ground tomorrow, but this is an appropriate time to pay tribute to a player who has made a massive impact at the club in a relatively short space of time.
When John Morris signed him two winters ago, there were a few raised eyebrows. Guptill had been on the scene for a few years in New Zealand yet was still only a young man. Former Derbyshire stalwart John Wright was the intermediary and thought that Guptill could do a good job for Derbyshire, at the same time that Derbyshire could do a good job for Martin Guptill.
A reputation as a classical batsman with a wide range of strokes yet an impetuous nature in using them suggested that the player would entertain and it was Wright who moved Guptill up the order, seeing potential in him as an opening batsman. His first season at Derbyshire was sound, if not spectacular, some good Championship knocks following a difficult start and some brutish deliveries. His T20 campaign was perhaps the highlight, his clean, straight style of batting, willingness to hit through the "V" and work hard for the cause making him a stand out. A century against Yorkshire in the CB40 at Chesterfield was special and Guptill returned to New Zealand with his reputation enhanced, not just as a player. Few overseas players - injured ones to boot - would deign to carry the drinks, as Guptill did at Essex last summer, keen to remain part of the team to the very end.
Few overseas players have "mucked in" as Guptill has been willing to do either. I've seen plenty around the circuit over the years who turned it on for the TV cameras, for a big game or when conditions were in their favour, being less keen to do the hard yards at other times. Guptill is an example to all in that respect, throwing himself around in the field and displaying the perfect attitude and preparation at all times.
Which, of course, makes him the ideal man for a young side, keen to learn and watching the moves of the "stars" of the side. Guptill had a wonderful winter, scoring heavily for New Zealand and his native Auckland in all forms of the game and news of his return was greeted with considerable enthusiasm.
He has repaid the club with a fine aggregate and the recognition of being perhaps the best overseas player on the circuit right now. Nearly 600 runs at 50 in the Championship and over 200 in three CB40 games has again shown him as a classically correct player with the ability to take an attack apart. He now goes on to the big innings that for some time eluded him and his clean aggression at the top of the order has played a major part in Derbyshire's early season success, as has his brilliance in the field. He still has the ability to hit the ball a country mile, but his technique has tightened up and his all-round game has matured. Guptill is the business..
At 25 he has the world of cricket at his feet and will, I think, be seen as one of the best batsmen in the game over the next five years. This year he turned down the opportunity to play IPL to return to Derbyshire and further hone his game, a decision that was both appreciated and respected. It is unrealistic to expect him to do so in the future, as players can earn far more for six weeks in India than they could for a summer in England. If Martin Guptill throws his hat into the ring for next year's IPL there will be an orderly queue forming for his services.
Will we see him in Derbyshire colours again? I sincerely hope so, as he is a major talent, as well as a man of decency and humility. How many international stars would opt to stay with a couple of team mates in a spare room than take the expensive apartment on offer to them? Guptill did just that and there are a number of such stories about his level-headedness and all-round affability that could be told.
The bottom line is that Martin has been a gem for Derbyshire cricket, which has also been an excellent finishing school for him. I would love to see him back, though looking at next summer's schedule I feel that it is unlikely to be in 2013. His New Zealand commitments to their tour of England will see him at the County Ground in early May, but the tour continues to the end of June, certainly ruling him out of the bulk of the T20 at least.
History will record Martin Guptill as a very, very good batsman, one with the potential to become great. Those who played or worked with him will testify to him being a diamond of a man and a pleasure to have around the place.
Such a combination sets him a very select company. On behalf of all Derbyshire fans, thanks Martin. It really has been our pleasure.