Latham looks to cement place on Windies tour

GREG STUTCHBURY
Last updated 01:32 18/06/2012

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Tom Latham has had all of his injections. Three in one arm and two in another. And his arms felt numb for a couple of days afterwards.

"It was also a bit tough to sleep too, because you'd roll over on your side and it'd be sore," the 20-year-old told Reuters in a packed cafe on the outskirts of Christchurch's central city.

Latham needed the injections because he was making his final preparations for New Zealand's tour of the West Indies, his first overseas trip with the senior side.

Son of former opening batsman Rod who played in the 1992 World Cup, Latham made his international debut earlier this year in the one-day series against Zimbabwe, where he accumulated 79 runs in three innings with a high score of 48.

"It was pretty exciting," he said. "I know it was only Zimbabwe but it was still international cricket and being around the guys like Brendon (McCullum), who I really looked up to growing up, was pretty cool."

He was not picked for the series against South Africa, with the selectors deciding they wanted the left hander to take his time to develop, but was named in both the Twenty20 and one-day squads for the West Indies tour, with the team leaving later this week.

New Zealand have two Twenty20 internationals in Florida, part of their joint venture with USA Cricket to promote the game in the country, five one-dayers and two tests on the tour.

Latham, who has never been to the West Indies said he had watched documentaries about the devastating sides of the 1970s and 80s when the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Joel Garner terrorised opposition batsmen.

While the West Indies may not have bowlers of that calibre in their current side, he felt recent performances against Australia at home and England away showed they were a team on the up.

"They are playing some good cricket at the moment. In their home town they will be tough and be a challenge for us," he said.

DUAL ROLE

Latham has spent of his playing career as an aggressive opening batsman-wicketkeeper, modelling his game on Australia's Adam Gilchrist and McCullum, but has recently eschewed the gloves at first-class level to concentrate on his batting, where he has moved down to the middle order.

While he concentrates on his batting, "it's my strength", he continues to practice his wicketkeeping skills, with the eye on making himself more of an option for international duty.

McCullum, who only dons the gloves in limited overs matches, is 31 later this year, while test wicketkeeper Kruger Van Wyk is 32 and Latham knows he could find himself in a battle with BJ Watling for the long-term role.

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"I'm definitely keen to keep the wicketkeeping going," he said. "I don't see myself as the number one keeper at the moment, but it's always good to have to make tours when they look at the make up of the side as a backup keeper.

"It's between me and BJ I think. They (the selectors) have said I'm a keeping option and I will be doing as much as I can to keep that going, because as my dad said 'it's just another string to the bow'."

While Latham's appearances and selections have been restricted to the limited overs teams, he is keen to eventually make the test side as well, as he felt it not only suited his style of play but was the goal all cricketers should aspire to.

"I have been given an opportunity with the Twenty20 and one-dayers but test cricket is the pinnacle. That's my ultimate goal, to play for the Blacks Caps in test cricket," he said.

"I want to cement myself in the New Zealand side and play as much cricket for them in all three forms. My main goal at the moment is working towards the 2015 World Cup (in Australia and New Zealand).

"There are a few opportunities coming up... but if I'm batting at one or 11 in the New Zealand team I'll be happy."

- Reuters

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