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Getting a ‘toehold’ despite accident

cricket Updated: May 08, 2010 23:55 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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With IPL teams on the lookout for young players who can be game-breakers in the shortest version of the game, 23-year-old New Zealander Martin Guptill has every reason to be hoping for the best. A fluent attacking batsman and brilliant fielder, Guptill caught the eye of an experienced cricket-watcher like Rahul Dravid when India toured there last year.

After a first-class debut on which he scored 99, and an ODI debut where he made 122 against the West Indies, Guptill is keen to make a mark in T20s as well, and there's no better stage than the ICC World T20. “I don’t have a T20 half-century yet,” Guptill told HT. “I want that to change and I feel good, having played a couple of good knocks for Auckland in domestic cricket.”

Someone who has loved cricket all his life, Guptill’s dream almost ended before it began when he was involved in a horrific accident as a 13-year-old. Helping out at his father’s trucking and storage business, Martin’s foot was run over by a forklift. He had no option but to amputate three toes when doctors failed to heal properly. “It was traumatic,” said Guptill. “Soon I was back and got accustomed to those missing toes. My body has adjusted to it. Now it's not a hindrance at all.”

As young Martin lay in hospital, his father Peter, a veteran club cricketer, got in touch with New Zealand team manager Jeff Crowe, requesting him to have one of the players visit his son. Stephen Fleming stopped by the next day, and when Guptill made his debut all those years later, it was Fleming’s record that he broke.

In a sport where balance and footwork are the key, especially if you want to be a sharp fielder, Guptill has done enormously well despite the tough cards he was dealt. “Fielding has come naturally to me, but it’s also something I’ve worked hard on,” explained Guptill. “I was the goalkeeper of my school first-eleven soccer team and that probably helped.”

Guptill has now dispatched the memory of that accident to the distant past. His teammates call him “Marty Two-toes”. The world is now at his feet, and even if he’s only standing on seven toes, he’s standing tall.