Cricket: Latham highlights heavy workload

By David Leggat

Black Caps players Tom Latham (right) and Kane Williamson. Photo / Alan Gibson
Black Caps players Tom Latham (right) and Kane Williamson. Photo / Alan Gibson

Tom Latham joined the New Zealand cricket squad in Africa yesterday and immediately made a salient point about his experiences in English county cricket.

The lefthand opener is in Pretoria with the group for a pre-tour camp and he feels in good shape on the back of his stint with Kent.

"[At one point] we played 22 out of 24 days, and that's without training, just playing days. They call it the silly season over there," Latham said.

That comment is pertinent to New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson.

He played his last match for Yorkshire, a T20 game against Nottinghamshire, early today before heading to Africa.

However, Williamson had requested, and been given, time off by the county early this week, citing the wearying schedule.

Williamson has played two first-class games, three List A matches and six T20s. His return has been average, save the shortest form, in which he leads Yorkshire's batting aggregates and average.

Williamson, the world's second-ranked test batsman, has indicated his keenness to return for a fifth season. Yet it's a tough gig for one of the world's best players.

"It does highlight that scheduling is an issue," Yorkshire's coach, former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie said, after the club had given Williamson his break this week.

"Everybody gets affected with illnesses, injuries and the like. It's very simple. We just thought it would aid him and be the most beneficial thing for him to have a rest. In an ideal world we'd obviously want him to play. But we felt it was in his best interests ... to spend some time with his partner and clear his mind a bit. He's a great lad and there was some really good, honest communication."

Latham's line strikes a chord.

Williamson, just months into his time as New Zealand captain and with 14 tests and a bunch of limited-overs internationals in the next eight months, has a gruelling time ahead.

The first assignment shapes as having the potential to be the lowest key New Zealand overseas series in years.

Consider the tests in Bulawayo will clash with the Rio Olympics, as will the first in South Africa. Sporting minds will be concentrated on a different continent.

So for those ready for cricket after a lengthy international layoff since the world T20 in March, what to watch for in Africa.

Here are three points of interest:

Firstly, can Jeet Raval force his way into the test side? The Auckland opener has been given an opportunity, has been in good form and has a touch of class about his work. You would assume Latham and Martin Guptill have first dibs, and it could be Raval is in Africa to get a feel for the environment, perhaps with the tour to India in October more in mind.

Secondly, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig cover the three spin options. Is there room for all three in Bulawayo? It would mean just two seamers and remember there's no Corey Anderson or Jimmy Neesham to provide seam backup. That will come down to what the decision makers see in the pitch at the Queen's Club, last used for a test five years ago.

Thirdly, and finally, Williamson. A captain struggling for form will be a concern, although it's a long international summer stretching in front of him and you assume class, as it usually does, will win out. But Williamson will be keen to lead by example. These will be his first tests in charge, not as a stand-in. Don't doubt his desire to imprint himself on the test job from the outset.

- NZ Herald

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