The upcoming five-match T20I series against Bangladesh will pose two major challenges to Tom Latham, who will lead the inexperienced New Zealand side in the absence of a number of seniors including Kane Williamson. If that in itself is a challenge, considering that Bangladesh are fresh off thrashing Australia 4-1 earlier this month, Latham will have to shift gears to adapt to the shortest format, having last played a T20I in 2017. His previous T20 at the domestic level though was in 2019, when he scored a 57-ball century .
Acknowledging that leading the side "is a really big honour", Latham, who will also don the keeping gloves, feels "things won't be easy over here" in Dhaka, with the series beginning on Wednesday.
"Obviously, I haven't played for a long time," Latham said. "The way the world is at the moment, what NZC is doing for player welfare, it has presented an opportunity for a lot of the guys, including myself. We know things won't be easy over here looking at the Australia series.
"As a leader, you are always looking to grow and improve. This format presents another opportunity. I have had captaincy experience in the past. This is a slightly younger group. There's a bit of experience here, so I will try to lean on those guys as much as possible. I will be behind the stumps as well."
Even though the second-string New Zealand side - none of them will feature in the upcoming T20 World Cup - will take on a full-strength Bangladesh, Latham believes "there has been a good vibe around the group" and the series will be an opportunity for the inexperienced players to step up. Ahead of this trip to Bangladesh, New Zealand simulated spin-friendly conditions during their winter camps in Mount Maunganui and Lincoln. They also had five outdoor training sessions before the series opener.
"Most of the guys have experience at this level before," Latham said. "Couple of guys haven't been in the squad before, it is exciting for them to get in the group and try to keep things as relaxed as possible.
"We had really good training over the past five days. We will finish off our final preparations today. We have been well looked after in Bangladesh. There has been a good vibe around the group.
"The guys are looking forward to getting stuck in cricket. We have had two camps, so from a preparation point of view, it has been a long time. Everyone is pretty excited to get going tomorrow," he said.
On paper, Bangladesh are favourites to win the series, given the home advantage and the familiarity of the conditions. However, Latham categorically mentioned that they are in Bangladesh to topple the home side.
"It is pretty easy to motivate yourself when playing for the country," he said. "I personally haven't had a lot of opportunities in T20s, so it is exciting. Even for the other guys.
"Most of the guys have played T20s for New Zealand but probably not as much as they would like to. We have to enjoy ourselves out there and stick to a brand of cricket that we believe can be successful in these conditions. Our goal is to win the series."
Aware of the challenges in Dhaka that includes adapting to slow, turning tracks, Latham is confident that New Zealand have acclimatised to the conditions in the last five days.
"We are preparing for wickets that Australia faced about a month ago. We had some really good camps in New Zealand. We have to play on a surface that will be a lot more challenging than what we expect," he said.
Even though spinners are expected to play a key role, Latham said that the team will be wary of Bangladesh's left-arm fast bowler Mustafizur Rahman who could be lethal at the start of the innings but he also said New Zealand have "come up with plans best to negate them".
"Mustafiz at the top of the innings, is renowned for his slower balls," Latham, who has never played in Bangladesh, but has scored plenty of runs against them in New Zealand, said. "We saw how he bowled against Australia. The spinners at the top and through the middle will present the challenges. We are looking forward to facing them tomorrow."