New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson said that the team will miss the services of Martin Guptill, who recently decided not to take up a central contract and was released by NZC. He is the fourth Blackcaps player after Trent Boult, James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme to request a release this year.
"Obviously, he has made a decision to explore a few other options. But as a player and as an experienced member of the group, he has added so much value over the years and been one of our best white-ball players ever," said Williamson ahead of the first ODI against India in Auckland on Friday (November 25).
Guptill, 36, was recently part of New Zealand's T20 World Cup squad but did not get an opportunity to play a single game as Finn Allen was preferred over him. Guptill is New Zealand's leading run-getter in T20Is and third-highest in ODIs.
“Without getting a playing opportunity, he was outstanding and offering to all the players in the group. So, he's been fantastic in so many areas of the environment. Absolutely, he will be missed, but like I say he's not retired. So there's a lot to keep working through over the next period to get a real feel for how the picture looks,” said Williamson.
The franchise cricket is only going to grow bigger and Williamson feels that the board and individuals will have to figure out a way to make this work. "It's just trying to strike that balance, like we've seen with a few other players who have also sort of looked at some of those other opportunities. It's a bit of a moving landscape. So it's trying to weigh that up and look at how it can all work moving forward.
"Guptill hasn't retired. He is looking at playing some other tournaments while still being available, but like I say, it's balancing that moving forward. He's still very motivated to keep playing and getting better. And I think that's important for all players, even though he has played such a long, amazing career.
“As a mate and a team-mate over a long period of time, we had a few good chats. And it's managing that time. As a player, you always go through different periods and you get to different stages, and you're trying to basically manage that as best you can."
Talking about the health of bilateral series, Williamson feels there need to be "more context" for attracting fans to the stadiums. A sparse crowd witnessed the recent ODI series between the Ashes rivals Down Under. Only a handful of fans gathered at the MCG for the final match. The series had started less than four days after England's T20 World Cup triumph Down Under.
"It was unfortunate to see, but it also shows the volume of cricket that's being held. Because no doubt the ICC tournaments are incredibly popular and there has been a lot of cricket on. They (Australia) also had a World Cup on. So, there was a lot on in their country too.
"So, we must ensure there is a lot more context as possible in games, especially the bilateral series," Williamson said on the eve of New Zealand's opening ODI against India.
Asked if ODI cricket is slowly dying, Williamson said, "It's tough.But yeah, it will settle somewhere. I don't know what it will look like. A lot of teams now have two teams at the moment.
"I don't know where it will settle, but there are always conversations about trying to make it more appealing in any context like rule change etc so…" England's T20 World Cup triumph has intensified the debate on split coaching and picking different players for different formats and the Kiwi skipper feels the packed schedule also has a part to play with players needing rest.
"Yes, it appears to be happening more and more and you can understand why. There is so much on and you can't do everything. That's why you see a lot of teams with those sort of make up."
Williamson said that his ODI side needs to reconnect a bit after playing so many T20s. "After a large volume of T20 cricket, the focus naturally shifts to the next one i.e is the ODI tournament. Reluctant to call it preparation, it's very much focussing on the series at hand and the team reconnecting.
"There have not been a huge amount of ODIs, it was mostly T20Is, with some Tests. It is about settling down and getting a nice understanding. There is a change in the environment. These are a few factors. But it is about keeping it nice and simple, going out and express and himself. There is a lot of ODI cricket to come."