Signing of Martin Guptill shows Derbyshire's intentions
If such action was required, the signing of Martin Guptill for the start of the 2015 county season has emphasised that Derbyshire mean business.
The tall Kiwi was one of the most popular of overseas players in his previous stint in county colours. He was one of the boys, friendly, approachable and very aware of the responsibility of his role. He took it seriously and set standards in the field, off the field and in his attitude with the bat.
The bottom line is simple. Guptill has swagger, in the nicest sense of the word. He goes out to dominate and to impose himself on the opposition. That self-confidence and self-belief rubs off on his colleagues.
It did in 2012. For all that we have enjoyed some fine overseas players over the years, I don't recall many who announced their credentials by smacking the overseas professional of the opposition into the middle distance, as Guptill did to Chaminda Vaaas in that season's opening fixture. It was a stroke that belied the cold and the fact that it was the first arctic game of the summer; one that said 'Here I am and this is what I can do'.
Guptill’s approach to the game
Which was pretty much what he kept on doing. His approach to the art of batting was such that failures were always likely. Occasionally the desire to dominate cost him when he went for his shots too early, but when it came off, as it frequently did, it was magnificent.
His approach was diametrically opposed to that of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, for who occupation of the crease was of paramount importance, but the averages didn't lie. Guptill averaged a shade under 50 in the first-class game in 2012 and an impressive 70 in one-day cricket, when his assaults – no other word will do – on the bowling made for some memorable cricket.
His effect on the side was considerable, though not just in his batting. There was the 'chirpiness' in the field, the voice heard encouraging his team mates on to greater efforts, to concentrate, to get the batsman out. There was also a wonderful pair of hands anywhere, speed over the ground and an example set. This wasn't an overseas player here to score a few runs on easier tracks and coast. He wanted to dominate and to contribute to success. He did that in spades.
Therein lies the issue. No one who has watched Martin Guptill in full flow will doubt his talent, but his Test average has slipped below thirty, his first-class average below that of the one-day game. He is 29 this year and has slipped out of the reckoning for Test cricket in a country that is getting together a formidable side. A good stint for Derbyshire would make all the difference ahead of a Test series in this country in mid-summer and that is a fine incentive if ever there was one.
Derbyshire need to find the right opening partner for Guptill
Guptill carries on a lineage of opening 'dashers' that began with Arnold Hamer and continued equally memorably with Kim Barnett. Both gave early impetus to an innings and there was an audible sigh of disappointment, of truncated enjoyment, when they went early. It is the same with Martin Guptill.
It will be interesting to see who gets the nod as his opening partner, but both Ben Slater and Billy Godleman will enjoy batting with a player who always keeps the scoreboard moving. Guptill's early season partnerships with Paul Borrington were a major factor in the success of 2012 and the top order looks all the more impressive with him at its head.
His winter suggests that he is back into prime form after a period of injury and he has averaged just under 75 for Auckland, as well as producing some fine innings in the one day game. Anything close to that sort of form will do us nicely and I am sure I'm not alone in anticipating that trademark drive back over the bowler's head, the follow through held nicely as the ball disappears over yonder sightscreen.
Or the slog sweep that may well endanger those sat in front of the marquee, or walking behind it, for that matter. Batting from the other end, it might be an idea to check the insurance on the Lund Pavilion, there's a lot of glass there, well within his range.
All is well in the world, my friends. The Gup is back and things are boiling up nicely with a squad of rich potential.
Welcome home, Martin. It will be a delight to watch you once again.