Latham in 'tricky' spot for Test debut
Jesse Ryder's latest indiscretion has given Tom Latham a spot in the New Zealand Test squad. And if Ross Taylor's second child does not arrive by tomorrow, Latham will make his Test debut in Wellington against India. It is a "tricky" scenario, Latham admitted, but it will also fulfil his dream to play Test cricket for his nation, and the 21-year old is gearing up for it.
"I suppose it is a tricky one but I have to prepare myself to play and if I do get the nod, then I am ready to go and if not, then Ross will slot back in," Latham said. "It will be very exciting. I have always wanted to play Test cricket, to play Test cricket for New Zealand is a dream and it will be very rewarding."
There could be pressure playing your first Test, but Latham said it helped coming into a side that was yet to lose a game to the visitors. "It's probably the best way to come into a team, when the team is doing well. There will be pressure on me but the boys will be squarely behind me if I do get the nod."
Latham has caught some of the Indian bowling on television during this series and feels they are a decent attack, especially on a Wellington pitch which wore a green look two days before the match starts. "I remember playing [Mohammed] Shami out here a few years back when he came out with the India A team and he was a good bowler," Latham said. "They are all good bowlers in probably tricky conditions which should be out there. If I do get the nod, then fingers crossed I will do well."
He got the call-up on the back of his 687 runs at an average of 68.70 in the ongoing domestic first-class Plunket Shield. He made five half-centuries and an unbeaten double-hundred for Canterbury, and was glad to have turned in consistent scores.
"That's what I was asked to do," he said. "I went back and played for Canterbury and it's nice that I have been putting those numbers on the board and I think that consistency is probably the most pleasing thing. It is nice that the selectors have rewarded me for that consistency. I have done a lot of work with Bob [Carter] in the Black Caps setup. He has been really good and he was my coach a few years ago at Canterbury."
Those first-class runs came at the top of the order but if he plays in Wellington, Latham will have to slot into the middle order, something he said he should have "no problems" doing. "I have batted in the middle order before. It's my first season sort of opening for Canterbury. Last season I was in the middle order so it's not a position that is unfamiliar to me, so hopefully I can carry on from where I have left off with Canterbury."
Latham said even opening in first-class cricket had not posed too many issues, as he had done the job through age-group cricket. If the Test debut happened, he said he would look to continue what had worked for him at Canterbury, which was to play his natural game.
He was part of the New Zealand side that toured Sri Lanka in November last year, and made a match-winning 86 off 68 in the second ODI in Hambantota. Before that, he had fifties in unofficial Tests in Sri Lanka and India for New Zealand A. Latham said those scores had boosted his self-belief.
"It was obviously nice to score runs and let yourself know that you can do it. In the games after that, I have certainly felt more confident batting out there. Putting those numbers on the board builds that confidence."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo