With New Zealand on the cusp of a maiden one-day international series victory in India, one player has used the series as a launching pad for his limited overs career.

Since touring the West Indies in June 2014, Tom Latham has established himself as the best Black Caps test opener since Mark Richardson, averaging 39.06 from the 45 innings in the role.

Until this Indian tour Latham had not featured as a regular in the ODI thinking, with aggressors Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill ensconced to open in recent years.

McCullum's retirement brought an opportunity and, with scores of 79 not out, 46, 61 and 39, Latham has seized it.


A series average of 75 is one thing, but a strike rate of 88 and no dismissals before the 16th over - including batting through in Dharamsala - is more important in setting a platform.

One Twitter wag 'questioned' Latham's credentials as New Zealand worked to level the series 2-2 in Ranchi, because every time he scored a half-century in the tests or ODIs, New Zealand lost. The truth is Latham's consistency across the tour has helped sustain New Zealand's credibility.

He tends to stick to his game plan of a resolute defence, working deliveries off his legs for ones and two, sweeping judiciously and auditing shots through cover.

However, to look at the 24-year-old's batting only observes part of his CV.

Latham is the consummate team man and someone captain Kane Williamson will have been grateful to rely on during a tour where the New Zealanders have plumbed the depths of their characters in pursuit of better results.

Latham even appears to model his press conferences on his prudent batting. He knows what questions to 'leave' and shelves expansive shots. He delivers a set message.

27 Oct, 2016 10:52am
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Anything that goes on within the ranks of the team is classified.

As a result he has earned the respect of his peers. If you sluice how Latham conducts himself at practice or on the field, it distills to pure dedication.

The third test and fourth one-dayer offered examples in the field.

Latham, a wicket-keeper in his formative and early provincial years, has morphed into an agile outfielder and sharp close catcher.

At Indore, Murali Vijay intended to clip Jeetan Patel through the legside, and fire a warning to Latham at short leg. Instead he snaffled the bobbling ball as just reward for hours practising under the lid.

At Ranchi, Tim Southee took the pace off a ball to Manish Pandey who clubbed it to mid-on. Latham jumped, stretching to his full height, and completed the catch. Later he prowled the long-off boundary to pouch Handik Pandya off Mitchell Santner.

A 20-year-old Latham became the youngest player to captain Canterbury in a first-class match and already looks an able lieutenant to Williamson.

When he was originally selected for the New Zealand ODI side in 2012, Canterbury stalwart Peter Fulton said: "He's quiet, respectful and willing to learn.

"Tom fits into a culture where we try not to make players buy into rules and restrictions of what you can and can't do. Teams operate best when they police themselves, rather than anyone carrying around a big stick."

In the wake of the McCullum leadership era, the incumbents need to fill the void swiftly to prevent losing momentum. Latham is at the core of sustaining that.​