You could almost hear the chorus of moans from the cynics amongst New Zealand's cricketing public when Hamish Rutherford was named in the test team to face England last weekend.
'Another Rutherford? Oh no, not again - he's too young. It'll be just like what happened with his old man.'
Indeed, the test blooding of Hamish's father Ken at the hands of the West Indian pace attack of Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall in 1985 has often been held up as a prime example of why not to introduce young Kiwi batsmen before their time in cricket's longest form.
Then only 19, Rutherford Snr. made only 12 runs in his first seven test innings and was tortured by one of the most fearsome bowling attacks test cricket has ever seen.
Yet the former New Zealand test captain, who retired with 56 tests to his name in 1995, reckons there's no comparison to what he went through, to his "more mature" son Hamish.
The younger Rutherford has a first-class average of 45.52 in 19 games for Otago - and scored 162 in his last Plunket Shield game for his province, against Northern Districts in Queenstown last month. His old man had only played seven games before he was pressed into action.
"I don't really think there's a huge comparison there," Rutherford, who is now based in South Africa, said.
"[Hamish] is four years older, and he's a hell of a lot more mature than what I was at 19. I was very wet behind the ears back then.
"He's far more man-of-the-world than what I was at the same stage. Obviously, you'd prefer he'd played more than 19 first-class games.
"If he was closer to the fifty, you'd feel more confident about his selection and probably happier in himself - but it is what it is.
"He's got an opportunity to play his first test match for his country, which is really important. He'll be on home soil in Dunedin. He knows those conditions well - definitely different to turning up in Trinidad and facing Marshall, Holding and Garner with the new ball."
Rutherford senior is confident that Hamish's first-class ability, which is statistically superior to his record in domestic Twenty20s and one-dayers, will shine through against the likes of James Anderson and Steven Finn.
"The selectors are taking a bit of a different tact and have probably signalled the end of going back to likes of Michael Papps and Jamie How, and some of those other guys that have got a chance," he said.
"I hope Hamish doesn't become a Papps or How himself in five years time. That's his great challenge now, is to prove he's worthy of a spot at the top of the order. If you look at the top batsmen at the top of the order over the last 12 months, he probably deserves his selection.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that. Now it's up to him to prove he is worthy of it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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