Test cricket is a massive mental game: Latham

Test cricket is a massive mental game: Latham

‘These two hundreds obviously have done a world of good to my confidence’

By Rituraj Borkakoty (reporter/ Chief Sub Editor)

Published: Sun 23 Nov 2014, 10:53 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:28 PM

Tom Latham celebrates his century against Pakistan. Photo by Shihab/ Khaleej Times

Tom Latham celebrates his century against Pakistan. Photo by Shihab/ Khaleej Times

Dubai — Tom Latham, the New Zealand opener with boyish looks, is beginning to flourish in the hard world of Test cricket where only the toughest men can survive. The 22-year-old left-hander is not afraid of facing myriad obstacles in alien conditions. Those who saw him bat against Pakistan in the first and second Test matches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai would agree that Latham is an old-fashioned cricketer who prefers to play the waiting game. It’s not a surprise then that he put himself in an exclusive club with two centuries on the trot in the UAE. Only Bert Sutcliffe and Glenn Turner — two of New Zealand’s greatest batsmen in history — had previously scored two successive Test hundreds for the Kiwis as openers in Asia.

No non-Asian opener has achieved this feat at a younger age than Latham’s in this continent. And to put things into perspective, the second Test in Dubai was only the sixth match of his career.

When Latham agreed to do an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times after his brilliant 137 had helped the Kiwis secure a morale-boosting draw against Pakistan, the Christchurch lad remained grounded. Even when this reporter reminded him of how New Zealand batting coach Craig McMillan felt he could solve the team’s long-standing problem at the top order, Latham just said he had a long way to go. “These two hundreds obviously have done a world of good to my confidence. But that won’t change a thing when I play my next innings as I will have to again start on zero,” Latham said matter-of-factly. “These are early days in my career, but yes, it’s nice to hear those words from him. I have to keep doing the hard work. I have to keep scoring runs day in and day out. I suppose it’s a tough job and especially the conditions are different back home. And here we are playing in entirely different conditions. So I am happy to have been able to put the runs on the board.”

Latham says it was the Test series in West Indies — he scored three impressive half-centuries (83, 73 and 82) — which helped him prepare for the UAE series against a formidable Pakistan team.

“We had a tour of the West Indies in June where we played three Test matches. The conditions were a bit similar there. We learned a lot of things on that tour. The conditions here are even slower and lower compared to the West Indies. But yes, it was a good learning experience and the runs I made in West Indies helped a lot,” he said.

The patience with which he bats and waits for the odd bad ball to score his runs is remarkable for one so young. “I think Test cricket is a massive mental game. The longer you spend time out there, the more positive you try to become. You just don’t need to go out of the game plan. When you do that, things tend to fall in place. That’s what I have learned,” said Latham, whose 103 off 222 balls in Abu Dhabi came when the more experienced batsmen in the team were struggling to cope with the guile of the two Pakistan spinners – Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah.

Surprisingly, it was a dazzling strokemaker that inspired Latham when he was an aspiring cricketer. “Well, when I was younger, I did a bit of wicketkeeping. So Adam Gilchrist was one of big role models,” he revealed. “But when I started to bat at the professional level, I realised it was impossible for me to play like him.

“So I began watching a lot of other big players. I enjoyed watching Sachin Tendulkar. He was such a great player. I always tried to learn from his batting,” said Latham whose father – Rod Latham – had opened the batting for New Zealand in the 1992 World Cup.

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