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Tom Latham: I’ve always wanted to play county cricket

Wednesday 27th April 2016

Men’s First Team

Kent overseas signing Tom Latham arrived this week ahead of the opening Specsavers County Championship home game against Glamorgan on Sunday 1 May.

The New Zealand opener has played at most spots in the batting line-up before settling at the top of the order.

The left-hander said: “When I first started playing, I was up and down the order but in the last two seasons, I started opening the batting in Test cricket.

“I was an opener growing up but played in the middle order to start with in first-class cricket but the opportunity came to do it in international cricket and it’s a role I enjoy.

“As an opener in the longer form, it’s about batting time and the longer I can take my innings, I give myself more of a chance to be successful and be an anchor at one end.”

Although he has deputised with the gloves at international level, his main focus is scoring runs for the time being.

The 24-year-old, who has played 18 Tests, 38 one-day and 12 T20 internationals said: “Since I’ve opened the batting, I’ve mainly focused on that as it’s very hard to keep and open the batting in Test cricket and it’s certainly improved when I haven’t worried about the keeping. I see myself as a batter but I can still do a job with the gloves.”

A international for the Black Caps in all forms, Latham does not hide his love for the longer form.

He had a routine ankle operation this winter and has been working his way back to full fitness before flying out to join the Kent squad.

“I think it’s important as a professional cricketer these days to be able to play all three forms but my favourite is Test cricket.

“I like playing the longer form. There’s a reason it’s called Test cricket. It’s tough on the body and mentally.

“I love batting long periods of time and occupying the crease. I do enjoy T20 and one-day cricket and if the opportunities come in those internationally then great but Test cricket is the ultimate.”

Latham has enjoyed a few weeks away from the game but can’t wait to return to action this summer.

“You grow up wanting to play sport and since I made my debut for Canterbury, I’ve loved every minute.

“It can be tough travelling the world away from family and friends but that’s part and parcel of what we do.”

Latham hopes his experience in England during New Zealand’s 2015 tour will stand him in good stead for 2016.

“If you look at the Test wickets in New Zealand in recent years, we’ve had a few green seamers so it should see similar in England in early season.

“The biggest difference is the Dukes ball as I’m used to playing with the Kookaburra ball.

“It’s a fraction harder and it swings around more and does more off the surface so you have to make the bowlers bowl to you at the top of the order and get the team off to a good start.

“Whatever the conditions, it’s important for myself and the team to assess and adapt to those.

“It’s more of a mental thing to switch on every time and not be complacent if you score runs.

“You have to keep putting numbers on the board and I’ll take nothing for granted.”

Latham could face several New Zealanders on the county circuit: Hamish Rutherford (Derbyshire), Brendon McCullum and Mitchell McClenaghan (Middlesex), Ross Taylor (Sussex), Jesse Ryder and Adam Milne (Essex), Matt Henry (Worcestershire) and Mitchell Santner (Worcestershire).

Kent’s overseas signing said: “It’s great that so many New Zealand guys are coming over so it’ll be a good experience to play in these conditions ahead of the Champions Trophy and bat as long as possible to put the team in a good position.

“For a Kiwi coming here, playing at Lord’s against England was very special with the traditions.

“The Test and one-day series was so exciting with both sides playing attacking cricket and some great games.”

Tom will recognise a few familiar faces in the Kent dressing room and is expecting to settle in quickly.

“I know Mitch Claydon from my time in Durham a few years ago and Iemember playing against Sam Billings in India when he was 15 and touring with a MCC team.

“There’s a lot of young guys and talent and I hope I can add my knowledge and experience from international cricket.”

Like Fabian Cowdrey in the Kent squad, Latham has a famous father with a big reputation to live up to: his dad Rod played four Tests and 33 one-day internationals/

“When I first played for New Zealand, someone said I was only playing because he was my Dad.

“It’s nice to lean on my dad’s experience, listen to advice and talk about cricket.”

Aside from his father, he cites two batsmen as his boyhood heroes in the game.

“Growing up, I liked Mike Hussey as he was called Mr Cricket for a reason and it was great to meet him in the recent series.

“Brendan McCullum was another guy I looked up to and he’s a phenomenal player who’s done so much for New Zealand cricket.

“I’ve seen some amazing things but to get the fastest Test hundred on a tricky surface will take some beating.”