Tom Latham & Colin de Grandhomme: two vital cogs in the New Zealand machine
Written by Sandip G
| Christchurch |

Published: March 3, 2020 9:10:54 pm

Tom Latham celebrates his half-century in opposition to India in second Test. (REUTERS) 

Best supporting solid

Tom Latham was barely 15 when he walked out to face the fastest-ever New Zealand bowler, Shane Bond, in a membership sport. By then Bond had misplaced a lot of his horrifying tempo, however Latham’s membership coach Neil Fletcher was hesitant to ship him as an opener. So earlier than the sport began, he advised the teenager to bat down the order. But the fresh-faced Latham – he retains the freshness even now – didn’t flinch.

“Don’t worry coach, one day or the other I have to face bowlers as fast as him,” he advised him. The coach was nonetheless reluctant, earlier than Tom’s father Rod, a former worldwide opener himself, assured him: “Let’s see if he’s got the stuff… If he’s not good enough, maybe, he needs to rethink his future.”

A couple of minutes later, Latham was shadow-batting in the center, stretching his limbs and crouching to get the blood flowing. As Bond and Co. entered the discipline, one in all the fielders started sledging him. Remembers Fletcher: “Something like, have you carried enough nappies or do you have a feeding bottle, some silly stuff. But Tom hardly listened to all this rubbish. He was just waiting for the biggest moment of his life. He even snatched the strike from his senior partner.”

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The first ball was full and beat his ahead defensive. The second was again of a size, and he hung again and defended: “The perfect back-foot defensive,” Fletcher gushes. The third ball was full and straight. “He just extended his bat and pushed it straight back. Four runs. I thought well, he’s a seriously tough bloke. Has the guts,” Fletcher says.

Latham completed the match 92 not out, replete with a number of straight drives and pull photographs, and a wowed Bond gave him an autographed ball. He then had a chat with Rod. “Brave lad, I’m sure he will be a Black Cap like you.” In reality, an improve on his father, who was a bit-part participant in the strictest sense.

Twelve years on, Latham has not solely materialised Bond’s prophesy, but additionally emerged as an indispensable cog in Kane Williamson’s resurgent aspect. His credentials — 3,726 runs at 42.34 in 52 Tests — are amongst the best amongst modern openers at a time when there’s a noticeable scarcity of high quality in that function. Yet, he slips into anonymity. There isn’t any flash about him like Ross Taylor, or the aura of Kane Williamson. His stroke-play neither awes nor thrills, not ungainly however not eye-catching both. He compiles his runs by means of drives down the floor, feisty pulls, nudges, clips and glides. The staff will not be constructed round him, but he’s one in all the cussed blocks that make this staff.

He scored simply 122 runs in the Test sequence in opposition to India, however take out the pair of 52s he made on a cheesy Christchurch floor, and the story of the match might have been totally different. He noticed by means of tough spells from Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, shrugged of the situations the ball beat him and hung round weathering the storm and punishing the unfastened balls.

Fletcher will not be shocked. “He’s always had a great understanding of the game. Nothing fazes him. Every level he goes up, he seems to take it in his stride. He’s quite a humble person and a very good team man; the guys in club and school really looked up to him and he just lets his bat do the talking,” he observes.

The Williamson cheer-group, Steady The Ship, gave him a nickname, Dave Franco after the Hollywood actor, who they really feel Latham resembles. Also like Franco, Latham is the help actor whose work goes under-appreciated. Not at dwelling although. “Sometimes, he tells me ‘dad shut up, I’ve got more runs than you,’ as a joke. But I tell him, ‘still you couldn’t play my wobblies’,” says his father.

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Though Latham’s father was an opener and a part-time medium pacer, he didn’t thrust cricket on him. “It just happened. So after retiring from international cricket, I began working at a sports shop in Christchurch and when he was around 4-5, my employer presented Tom with a cut-down cricket bat. I was surprised he picked it up left-handed. He had the left-hander’s cow corner slog fairly early on. It wasn’t too cultural at the start,” Rod says. A refined model of the slog sweep he unfurls in the subcontinent, the place he has loved appreciable success, a whole lot in Abu Dhabi and Colombo, in addition to half-centuries in India.

The refinement occurred at the Burnside West University below Fletcher. And the coach swears he had by no means seen a extra hardworking child in his teaching profession. “He’s always had a really good understanding of his own game. At an early age, that was quite visible ahead of players his own age. And he hits more balls than anyone. There’s no secret to his success,” he says.

Latham senior was cautious to not intrude in his teaching. “Being the son of a former player is always difficult and the expectation is more than most. So I’ve always stayed in the background and his coaches are his coaches. He comes to me every now and then and asks what I think. I’ll give him my thoughts and he’ll do what he needs to do. I’ve always stayed at arm’s length and let him make his own way in sport,” he says.

When he’s not enjoying cricket, Latham tags alongside along with his father to the Harewood Golf Club. Apart from bowling, it’s the solely spectrum the place the father dominates the son. “He’s a decent player, but will take sometime before he reaches my level,” the father chuckles. Jokes apart, he says: “As a cricketer, he has far exceeded my achievements and there are many more years left in his career. He has achieved what I could not have even dreamt of,” he says.

Fletcher too is assured of his greatness. “He’s too good, the world will one day understand him fully.” But Latham’s hardly bothered of recognition or accolades. He’s content material, like the archetypal Kiwi batsmen, to slink into the background and quietly full his shifts. More John Wright, his father’s opening ally, than Martin Crowe, his father’s captain. The Dave Franco of the staff.

Big man, shy man

In a uncommon journey to the metropolis of his start in 2005, former Zimbabwe cricketer Paul Strang, who had by then migrated to New Zealand and begun teaching at a membership in Auckland, stumbled upon a robust-built teenager at the Harare Cricket Club. He knew how tough it was again then for a white cricketer to burst into the nationwide staff. So he queried him whether or not he was in shifting to Auckland.

First, he needed to persuade the boy’s father, who aspired for his son to don Zimbabwe colors. Over a number of conferences, he succeeded and Colin de Grandhomme was on his maiden flight. “I was very scared. I was flying for the first time and to a distant place,” he as soon as advised New Zealand Herald.

Colin de Grandhomme celebrates after dismissing Virat Kohli on Day 2 of the second Test between New Zealand and India in Christchurch. (AP Photo) 

Strang was struck by the huge man’s shyness. So was his then membership coach Dipak Patel when he first met him. “He was a quiet, shy boy who hardly spoke. But he was bloody hardworking, rarely went out drinking with the boys, and ready to do anything for the team,” he recollects.

It’s what he does for his staff as properly. Plugging in relentlessly with the ball as a dependable inventory bowler and chiming in with helpful contributions down the order. His clear hitting has made him a cult hero on the county circuit, the place he performs for Warwickshire, although in the New Zealand set-up, his function as a batsman is extra akin to Ravindra Jadeja’s.

In one other period, or one other staff, he would have been labelled as the standard Black Cap all-rounder, a bit-part participant, who wouldn’t have merited a positioned on singular talent in a Test XI.

De Grandhomme bowls what could be described as right-arm Kiwi orthodox, medium-pace wobble. But underestimate him at your peril. On his Test debut, he picked six for 41 in opposition to Pakistan in Christchurch, the first Black Caps debutant to take half-a-dozen wickets since Alex Moir took six for 155 in opposition to England approach again in 1951.

Just a few months later, he smacked his maiden — and until date solely — Test hundred in opposition to West Indies in Hamilton. Twenty-four video games into his profession, he averages 37 with the bat together with that hundred and eight 50s. He has picked simply 37 wickets at 31.13.

Modest numbers, however his utility couldn’t be gauged by means of numbers. For occasion, in this sequence, his 43 in the first innings in Wellington and 26 in the first innings in Christchurch turned out to be valuable for his staff. Add to that the wicket of Virat Kohli in the second innings of the Christchurch Test, his workmanlike figures of 16-5-28-1, 11-5-12-1, 9-2-31-Zero and 5-3-3-1, and his contributions have been as spectacular as their frontline bowlers.

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Explained Trent Boult: “His thrift gives bowlers the freedom to attack. His energy gives us the time to recover between spells. He’s like a bowling machine.” Take him out of the eleven, and the Kiwis turns into an incomplete pressure.

However, he nonetheless stays shy and elusive. His rationale, as he defined to a radio station in a uncommon interview: “Just never been my thing. Talking in front of a crowd and just talking in front of heaps of people is pretty tough for me. I would rather face a 150kmh pacer,” he says. Then in a uncommon occasion of humour, he says: My dictionary doesn’t have as many phrases as different individuals.”

Among Kiwi journos, he’s generally known as the five-word Colin. For there was a press convention — in reality, the just one he has ever give — whereby he spoke simply 5 phrases. But his all-round efforts communicate greater than the phrases. And his teammates are sometimes at a lack of phrases when speaking about him.

However, there’s no scarcity of nicknames. Dutchie for his Dutch accent, Mo-man for the thick moustache he noticed on debut earlier than he shaved it earlier than the World Cup, Magnum for his placing resemblance to Tom Selleck’s well-known character Thomas Magnum from Magnum P.I. Then Big House, as a result of his New Zealand teammates thought his French surname Grandhomme meant Big House, whereas it truly means Big Man. But Grandhomme hasn’t cared a lot about correcting names, or altering perceptions.

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