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New Zealand prepare to launch Latham in new role

Tom Latham lobs the ball to a team-mate Getty Images

Who will keep for New Zealand on the limited-overs tour of India, following Luke Ronchi's retirement? Early indications are it will be Tom Latham, who has kept wicket in his ODI career of 58 matches eight times. That's not all: more change is in store for the left-hand batsman, as he will swap his opener's slot - where he has batted in 37 ODIs, New Zealand's regular opener with Martin Guptill since mid-2015 - for a spot in the middle order. This, according to coach Mike Hesson, would partly be because of his ability to bat against spin, which New Zealand expect plenty of in India, especially in the middle overs.

Signs of change for Latham began early this year, when he was asked to keep at home against Australia and South Africa for the first time in international cricket since 2013. However, in those five ODIs, he made 7, 0, 0, 2, 0 as opener, and was subsequently dropped for the remainder of the South Africa series. He returned when New Zealand toured Ireland in May, and freed up of his keeping duties, plundered 54, 104 and 84. However, he did not get a game in the Champions Trophy that followed, with Ronchi being made to open with Guptill. With Ronchi now out of the picture though, Latham is back in it.

Hesson, in his press conference before departing for India, where his team will play three ODIs and three T20s, said: "Tom Latham is very much a possibility. We've got three others on the New Zealand A tour [of India] currently - we have people over there having a real close eye on that."

Among the three keepers on trial with the A team are Tom Blundell, Glenn Phillips and Tim Seifert. While Phillips has not kept in any of the three one-dayers played against India A so far, his unbeaten 140 in the second game would give him a clear edge over the other two.

Hesson hinted that Phillips was definitely on the radar, but Latham still held the edge: "Glenn's certainly a wicketkeeper, he has kept for New Zealand Under-19s, he has kept for Auckland in all formats, he played for us in the T20 against South Africa [in February. A very good batsman in his own right and also a developing keeper.

"Tom's still the most experienced of those keepers, the other three are still developing. But we've got some good intel on the ground coming in, and we'll make a decision on that in the next few days."

Another reason why New Zealand are looking at a middle-order slot for Latham, Hesson said, was the need to get off to brisk starts in India before the spinners came on - Latham's strike rate in ODI cricket is 80.31. Colin Munro, Hesson said, would be a good option at the top. "We need to generate a strike rate at the top. Martin and Tom, although they've had some really good performances at the top individually, they haven't generated the strike rate as a pair we would like, so we're certainly looking at other options there.

"We're looking at the two guys who are doing it at the moment [with the A team], Colin Munro and George Worker - guys who have the ability to create a strike rate at the top of the order. The beauty of Colin is he is a boundary hitter. He doesn't so much adapt to conditions, he plays one way - batting in the middle order can make that difficult, and he has had success since we moved him up in T20s "

Meanwhile, Latham's skills against the slow bowlers could come into play in the middle, Hesson said. "I think starting against spinners is going to be difficult. So that middle order, when the ball is a bit older, it starts to grip, it starts to bounce, it brings in a few more variables, that certainly is the hardest part.

"Tom is pushing his case as someone who can keep and bat in the middle. Certainly his ability against spin will be critical for that. Tom was probably our best performing batsman 12 months ago in India, in those spin-friendly conditions."

Latham said he was ready for the move, and did not see a need to do anything different in the way he batted to deal with it - the difference, he said, would have to be in his mind. "It is a bit more tactics involved in terms of pacing an innings and trying to see it through to the end. Every situation you come in is slightly different. It's more a mental shift as opposed to a technical one, and it's more tactical. It's about being adaptable. I don't mind playing spin too much either. I'm looking forward to it."