Cricket: Marty Two-Toes has his foot in the door

By Dylan Cleaver

When Black Caps hero Martin Guptill was 13, he was lying in an Auckland hospital bed getting used to the idea he was going to live the rest of his life with two toes on his left foot.

His father, Peter, a Suburbs-New Lynn Cricket Club stalwart, used his contacts to get in touch with Jeff Crowe, then manager of the New Zealand team.

"Zimbabwe were touring and I asked him if it would be possible to get any of the Black Caps to come and visit Martin in hospital. The next day Stephen Fleming popped in to see him. It was really nice of him."

In one of those great moments of sporting symmetry, Guptill, a 22-year-old opening batsman, yesterday passed Fleming's record for highest score by a New Zealander on their one-day international debut.

He scored 122 not out in the Black Caps' 275-4 against the West Indies at Eden Park. Fourteen years ago, Fleming was run out for 90 against India on his debut.

Peter, 55, was in the crowd yesterday, along with his wife Jan and Martin's grandmother.

Guptill has been joined in New Zealand in the past couple of weeks by his Australian girlfriend Amy Erskine, so it's been a red-letter year so far.

Having coached Guptill's teams from his days at Kelston Primary, Peter could be forgiven for wanting to bask in the moment but instead was contemplating going to work distributing today's newspapers.

He recalled the time when his son, who had just made his first XI debut for Avondale College, had his foot run over by a forklift driven by his other son, Ben.

"It was a fairly traumatic time for everyone," he said. "The doctors originally set the crushed toes [the outside three] and gave them a couple of weeks to heal. When they hadn't shown any signs of healing they made the decision to amputate. We had no choice. It was difficult for Martin."

Nobody was sure how the amputation would affect Guptill's ability to play cricket to the high level many believed he was destined for, even at that young age.

Now, nearly nine years later, Guptill has made light of the injury and can even laugh about his circumstances - his nickname is Marty Two-Toes.

He still does the odd shift for his father, still works around heavy machinery, but yesterday's outrageous start to what he hopes will be a brilliant career, should ensure those shifts are few and far between now and the only danger to his toes should come from the odd sandshoe-crusher delivered by the world's best fast bowlers.

- Herald on Sunday

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