Three to tango
New Zealand has used 21 players in 11 Tests over the last 12 months, with three more likely to be added to the list when the team begins the first Test against England in Dunedin next week. Coach and chief selector Mike Hesson will be forced, through a mixture of form and injury, to take a punt on several players and hope they meet the extra demands of five-day cricket.
Martin's selection is on the basis of consistency and longevity on the first-class circuit. Known as "Bucko", he has played 115 matches over 14 seasons, taking 314 wickets at an average of 35.96. Not bad for a man who says on his New Zealand Cricket profile that he was born with dislocated hips and had a cast down to his ankles. He credits his father with convincing him to change from pace to spin bowling.
The 32-year-old debuted for Northern Districts in 1999-2000 and even made it into the New Zealand Test squad against Australia later that season (again due to the absence of the injured Daniel Vettori). He remained 12th man.
Martin's left-arm orthodox action might replicate Vettori but he is recognised in some quarters as a more attacking spinner. He says he will be "looking to take poles and bowl to some pretty attacking fields" rather than hold up an end.
He has represented Auckland since 2010-11 and this season has taken 32 wickets in the Plunket Shield, the most of any spinner (though he has been relatively expensive, at 40.40). He has bowled plenty of overs since returning from a lack of game time in South Africa. Helping his cause are 18 five-wicket bags and two first-class centuries.
In November he put together perhaps his finest first-class performance, with seven wickets and a century to help defeat Northern Districts by ten wickets.
Martin will take the ball away from the English top order, who, with the exception of Alastair Cook, are right-handers. He could bring more catching opportunities following the South Africa series, in which New Zealand never fully dismissed the hosts.
There could be a temptation, especially in Dunedin, to go in with four pace bowlers but the lack of Vettori to balance the team as a No. 7 batsman dulls that prospect. Otherwise Martin will debut in Wellington.
The 23-year-old has dispatched the "son of Ken" burden and built a solid record as an opener since earning a permanent first-class spot with Otago last March. He has ventured to South Africa for some pre-season training under his dad's watchful eye on occasion (Rutherford senior works for Gauteng-based betting agency Phumelela).
Hamish Rutherford's twin centuries against Northern Districts, followed by 239 against Wellington, were a fine way to finish the 2011-12 season and his career has been in the ascendancy since.
He can play all around the wicket but finds his best form when cannoning the ball into boundary hoardings within the "V". He has looked a touch vulnerable to the pull shot on occasion during the England limited-overs matches, and that might be a logical area to target if he's picked in Dunedin. He has played all but one match in the series so far. In eight outings his highest score has been 40, albeit when there is pressure to force the pace in the abbreviated form.
Rutherford began the domestic season with 99 for New Zealand A against India A, and has backed it up with some fine provincial form; 609 runs at 40.60 in eight Plunket Shield matches. In his most recent first-class match he scored 162 and 28 against Northern Districts in Queenstown, the venue for the four-day warm-up match he'll play this week.
Like Rutherford, Latham is contesting for an opener spot and has already erased any "Rod's boy" references with his own wicketkeeper-batsman-leadership skill set. Latham's father played Test and one-day cricket for New Zealand and provincial rugby for Canterbury. Memorably, television cameras captured Latham the older offering a discreet fist pump when Tom got off the mark with two sweet boundaries through cover- point while debuting against Zimbabwe last summer.
Tom Latham's top score in 11 limited-overs internationals is 48 but he batted with aplomb, coming in at No. 3, in the three warm-up T20s against England for 23 not out, 22 and 64. His Test selection would be a major punt, considering he has an average of 33.07, and a top score of 81 in the Plunket Shield this season, but he has a reputation for dedication and diligence.
He plays well off both feet and pushes singles with relative ease. Latham has also already captained his province in fellow Test opening candidate Peter Fulton's absence, despite being more than a month shy of his 21st birthday.
Latham came through the age grades as an aggressive opening batsman, representing New Zealand at the 2010 under-19 World Cup in the course. He later went on to spend a season with English county Durham, courtesy of Canterbury stalwart Paul Wiseman's past links.
Last season Latham caught the eye of New Zealand coach John Wright, following an innings of 130 off 119 balls to help Canterbury win a Ford Trophy one-dayer against Wellington. He is rated highly by New Zealand batting coach Bob Carter, who originally picked him at Canterbury. Latham's alma mater is Christchurch Boys' High School, known by many as The Factory, due to the number of All Blacks and Black Caps it produces. He was also once picked in the New Zealand under-19 rugby squad as a hooker before deciding to concentrate solely on cricket.
However, opening in a Test against England would be a Neil Armstrong-like leap, especially when the over restrictions are removed. Latham's keeping credentials for Canterbury have been acknowledged but he is not expected to take the international gloves any time soon.
Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday