Level-Headed Latham Gets Test Call-Up

Sunday morning at his parents' place in Christchurch was extra special today for new BLACKCAPS Test squad selection Tom Latham.

New Zealand Cricket National Selection Manager Kim Littlejohn called him yesterday morning with the news and after the 20-year-old had put the phone down, his immediate thought was to tell his parents Rod and Sally.

"I rang Mum and Dad straight away and that was a very special moment. They were very excited and said they were very proud. They'll be travelling down to the first ANZ Test in Dunedin now, along with a bunch of my mates. My phone has been going crazy all morning as friends have heard the news and it's been really humbling to hear the excitement in their voices."

Alongside Hamish Rutherford, Latham is one of two new faces in the BLACKCAPS Test squad and both are sons of former international New Zealand Test players, Ken Rutherford and Rod Latham having played alongside each other in the early 1990s and in the fondly-remembered 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Rod played four Tests and 33 ODIs in his New Zealand career, and whilst he and Tom exhibit distinct batting styles - Tom is a left-hander, for a start; one thing they have shared is the capability not only to send the ball arcing over the boundary with a meaty blow, but the discipline to bat up the order as required.

Says BLACKCAPS coach Mike Hesson, "One thing that stands out about Tom is that ability to bat anywhere in the order, consequently he is a very attractive option as he can provide cover for a number of spots.

"He has the ability to play off both feet and that's combined with good form and a mature, responsible approach to his cricket.

"We’ve been impressed with him in the NZ XI environment and with the way he entered the BLACKCAPS' One-Day International and Twenty20 environment last year. The fact that he has captained the Canterbury Wizards at such a young age - their youngest ever captain - tells you in itself that this is a young man with exceptional cricket intelligence. We see him as a very good investment for our future."

Latham will both captain and open the batting for the NZXI against England in Queenstown this week while BJ Watling takes the wicketkeeping gloves. It's a signal that he will be considered for the same role in the BLACKCAPS - and don't expect him to be at all fazed by the fact he hasn't been in an opening role for the Wizards of late.

"The change to my approach when opening is nothing too drastic", Latham explains. "I'll tighten up my defensive game and will be looking to leave more often, but the key is I'll go out there and still look to be myself whenever the ball is in the right areas to hit."

Latham adds that having played well against England during the NZXI Twenty20 matches in Whangarei earlier this month (he made scores of 23*, 22 and 64), as well as having battled Steven Finn on the Plunket Shield circuit during Finn's stint with the Otago Volts last season, has been "a confidence booster".

"It was useful having a look at them in Whangarei, certainly that will assist me in my preparation heading into these upcoming games. And I felt I was hitting the ball well again.

"I've had a few opportunities in last year or so and personally I've felt I haven’t really taken them with both hands, so what I really want to do now is put my hand up. Play more consistently and cement a spot. And it's not too complicated, really: I know I need to prepare well, stick to plans and play my natural game."

In other words, let the bat do the talking. Since first picking up a cut-down bat at the age of three, it's served him well. He was the leading run-scorer at New Zealand Under-17 level for two years in a row, captained his Christchurch Boys' High First XI and played his way into the New Zealand Under-19s and New Zealand A team all in his teenage years.

And that proficiency in finding the boundary? Dad had special backyard rules whenever young Tom, born just two weeks after the 1992 Cricket World Cup, duked it out with his elder brother Matthew on the lawn: "We only got runs added if it was a four or a six".

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