Perhaps it may not be wrong to say that New Zealand aren’t the greatest powers in modern cricket. They aren’t what you’d call a side facing which you shudder in fear. Not a team that pushes you to dwell in the charisma of their superstars.
And maybe that’s what makes New Zealand the true force they are in the sport; where every talent counts, never above the team or above one another. But always as a collective that turns an ordinary game into a fascinating one. And one bright spark of Kane Williamson-led side has just turned 28.
What is it about Tom Latham- a fairly young cricketer also not in any way an inexperienced one – that beckons our interest?
What does he offer to the team like most other compelling talents that together align their respective strengths to uplift a team whose greatest asset is, you guessed it, team spirit at the end of the day?
The Noteworthy Crafter
A bloke who is the prototype of a quintessential New Zealand warrior; one who’ll chip in and apply himself with great determination and a sense of restraint.
At 28, Tom Latham, a simple cricketer with more than moderate and less than overwhelming experience, is seemingly in ‘the’ zone where he can launch himself into the next phase.
In some ways, it’s fitting to note the parity between the youngster and his experience. He’s one ODI away from featuring in his 100th. At the same time, he’s played a little over 50 Tests.
You cannot rate someone as inexperienced when there’s a little under a decade worth of international experience against someone’s name. Yet at the same time, you cannot snub a force who’s someone like Kane Williamson’s deputy.
Not really when someone, who, in a span of eight years has collected 6,500 runs. Doing the math tells that’s an aggregate of 800-a-year.
In an age where the spinners have already fought back- think Lyon, Kuldeep, Yasir, Hasaranga, Dhananjay, Zampa, Simi Singh, Rashid, Adil- to name just a few and where seamers are back making the ball move, a facet that went out of fashion on placid pitches half a decade ago, batsmen are having to grind it out.
The Significance Of The 264
So New Zealand are fortunate that in Tom Latham they have a man who likes to soldier on, especially in a format that demands commitment and determinedness.
Nothing could dissuade even the most acerbic critic to cast a blind eye on that 264 at Wellington (December 2018) that resulted in a draw, taking New Zealand to a position of absolute control after Sri Lanka struggled with the first-inning tally of 282.
Latham didn’t just strike his maiden double ton; he carried his bat through.
Putting in 200 minutes at the crease often evades the best in the business. Then to stay put for 694 minutes could be called a feat that warranted and got a standing ovation. Then, moving from Christchurch to the Hagley Oval, Tom Latham proved he was no flash in the pan.
In a Test where the visitors suddenly fought back, dismissing Williamson’s men in 50 overs- this being a 5-dayer- Latham led the revival in the second inning, striking a 176, finding great company in good friend Henry Nicholls (162 off 225).
Playing the perfect foil to his more expressive partner, Tom Latham’s response was typically dogged and studious. He faced 370 balls and hence, spent time than his own team put together in their first inning downer.
Does that tell us something about a man who’s thus far, already closing in on the 4000-run mark, having already struck 11 tons, 18 fifties?
Facing the triumvirate of Lakmal, Kumara, and Chameera on the front foot, refusing to meddle with the ball that went outside off, Latham may have brought full delight to his captain in combining very Dravid-esque concentration powers to a very David Gower-like touch.
Not Everything Is Hunky-Dory For Tom Latham In ODIs
For someone who bats with an impressive average of 42 in red-ball cricket seems rather underwhelming in his ODI exploits. That mark of 32 begrudges the doting Kiwi fan who sees in Latham someone who’s more than the team’s Man Friday; the boy who’d be king someday.
While the middle-order batsman has, as a matter of fact, displayed the ability to bat holding an end, exemplified by 10 instances where he carried his bat through in 92 innings, the 4 centuries and 16 fifties seem that they can flower into a blossoming basket of runs, maybe also because the need of the hour is such.
This is an era where no score is ever safe enough. In that regard, Tom Latham also has to work out a flaw of sorts, the pressure he adds to himself thanks to an accumulation of dot balls as if batting in the lower-middle order wasn’t already challenging to pile up the runs quickly.
That said, 2020 had begun well for Latham, the second-highest scorer with 38, next best to Guptill’s 40 in the only ODI NZ lost to their Australasian rivals, when the rest of the games, before the Corona-cancellation, were surely promising some appetizing fun.
Excellence In His Craft
He’d remind himself that he also held the fort for his side courtesy two very valuable fifties this year, both of which shone in a definitive win for his side, his twin knocks of 52 (2nd Test, Christchurch) puncturing India from the top order.
It also arose a question that went begging.
In a game where greats of Test cricket- Pujara, Kohli, Rahane- along with rising forces-Mayank Agarwal and Shaw- simply seemed out of sorts, how valuable were Latham’s consecutive fifties or for that matter his combined stay at the crease that was no fewer than 285 minutes? Did the gorgeous cover drives against the trinity of Bumrah, Yadav and Shami, bowlers armed with both bounce and movement get the attention they beckoned?
Not that Tom Latham, in whose veins, runs cricket would mind.
Someone who doesn’t mind being asked to open when he’s kept the wickets, more usually in both formats, often in back-breaking conditions and grind.
Not that star all-rounder Rod Latham’s son would ever want to be celebrated or offered sobriquets when what he truly desires is achieving excellence for his New Zealand; with the same restraint and utter lack of greed with which one identifies the DNA of his creed (the Kiwis).
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