Latham strikes right balance between family life and international cricket

Tom Latham’s highest test score is an unbeaten 264 against Sri Lanka at Wellington’s Basin...
Tom Latham’s highest test score is an unbeaten 264 against Sri Lanka at Wellington’s Basin Reserve in December, 2018. Photo: Getty Images
Tom Latham wanted to emulate his dad Rod, and play rugby for Canterbury. Instead he followed his father’s footsteps into the New Zealand cricket team. From the front row, to facing the first ball, one of the country’s most reliable and prolific batsmen runs through his career and life off the pitch with Chris Barclay as the second test against South Africa starts.

You’re fortunate to be playing back-to-back tests at Hagley Oval so for this series at least you’re not far apart from your family – wife Nicole, son Angus and Toby the dog. Do you ever calculate how many days a year/season you’ll be away from home?
I think you always look forward in terms of what’s coming up, the places you’re going and the time you do have at home. If there are periods of time when you are able to get away for a few days you try and take those opportunities, especially over a winter, where we might be at home a little bit longer depending on the schedule. 

How do you balance a cricket schedule with family life? After this test series with South Africa we host the Dutch and then it’s off to England for three tests in June; the T20 World Cup in Australia in October … 
You certainly have to make the most of your time at home. You spend a lot of time on the road, which isn’t ideal. I’ve got a wee boy who’s seven months old so it’s certainly harder to go away. You have to make the most of the time you do get at home and leave cricket, at cricket. When I’m home I’m a father and a husband. Even when you’re in New Zealand the majority of the time you’re still playing away from home. Our environment is all about having the families on board and for them to be able to come in and share the moments with us. But over the last couple of years quarantine has certainly made it hard – those extra two weeks when you got home – but that’s the way of the world at the moment.

Tom Latham with the first cricket bat he used and a Kookaburra of a more recent vintage. Photo:...
Tom Latham with the first cricket bat he used and a Kookaburra of a more recent vintage. Photo: Supplied
Your son was born on July 18, 2021, a month after the World Test Championship final in England and in September you were captaining the Black Caps in a five-match T20 series in Bangladesh. Do you think it will be tougher to go on tour as he gets older? 
You look at other guys in the squad that have kids who are slightly older. They (the children) understand dad is away for long periods of time. At this stage (Angus) doesn’t quite understand but I’m sure as time goes on it’s only going to get harder unfortunately.

You celebrated your second anniversary with Nicole, an early childhood teacher, on September 28, last year. You go back a long way as a partnership. Did she grow up liking cricket or has she been converted?
Does she know what she signed up for? She sure does. She is a cricket fan now, she’d come to most games.

Do you have an interest in other sports?
I certainly follow my rugby quite closely, I’m a passionate Crusaders fan. I’m a keen golfer, not a great golfer. I’m very lucky to have played a few courses around the world when we (the Black Caps) have that opportunity.

Tom Latham and his father, former New Zealand test and ODI player, Rod. Photo: Supplied
Tom Latham and his father, former New Zealand test and ODI player, Rod. Photo: Supplied
Do you have a favourite 18 holes?
I enjoy the Australian (Golf Club) in Sydney. They had the Australian Open there a couple of weeks after we were there so it was in pretty good condition. It wasn’t easy. 

Do you switch off from cricket or do you still watch games you’re not involved in? Did you watch India in South Africa recently for research purposes?
I’m a big cricket fan so I do enjoy watching other games and keeping up to date with what’s going on around the world in different leagues and different international tours. 

Describe your ideal holiday destination, pre-Covid 19. We did notice a snap of you and Nicole in Santorini (Greece) on your Instagram page ....
I guess somewhere on an island where you can park up on the beach and get in the water, jump in the pool, that sort of thing. Hopefully when things open up those places might become a possibility again.

When did you start developing your cricket skills?
I’ve got a brother (Matt, a former New Zealand indoor cricket international) who’s 18 months older than me. We tended to get out there (on the backyard lawn). When my brother started playing cricket, I started playing in the same team. I think it was Kiwi Cricket back then with the yellow stumps and yellow balls. That was my first taste of playing cricket. I remember going down and watching dad (former New Zealand test and one-day international batsman Rod Latham) at the end of his career. It was cool being around a cricket environment. 

Tom Latham on the iconic Greek island, Santorini, with wife Nicole. Photo: Supplied
Tom Latham on the iconic Greek island, Santorini, with wife Nicole. Photo: Supplied
Yet rugby was your primary sporting interest until halfway through secondary school ….
Rugby was my passion growing up, I enjoyed that a little bit more than cricket, then cricket started to take over a little bit more and rugby took a backward step.

What position did you play?
I played hooker actually, I was a little bit rounder back in the day. I played for school (Christchurch Boys’ High School) and also Christchurch and Burnside. I think it was fifth form when I stopped playing rugby to focus on cricket.

CBHS is known as a production line for All Black first five-eighths –  Andrew Mehrtens, Dan Carter, Colin Slade to name a few. There must have been some handy cricketers in the first XI …
Well all the Hadlee’s went there. I played with Corey Anderson and we’ve had (Black Caps) Chris Martin, Neil Broom and Todd Astle.

When did you start representing Canterbury?
I played in all the age-group stuff, under-15s through to under-19s, ‘A’ cricket and then onto the Canterbury squad. It was a great pathway to be involved in, it was great having all those tournaments and winter training squads.

You’re captaining this Black Caps test side in Kane Williamson’s injury-enforced absence. It’s a leadership role that’s always sat well with you isn’t it? Neil Fletcher coached you at CBHS and before your New Zealand (ODI) in 2012 he predicted you would be a future captain. Gary Stead (Black Caps coach) appointed you as Canterbury youngest Plunket Shield skipper when you were 20 years and 254 days old in 2012. The previous record holder Lee Germon was almost a year and a half older …
It’s something I did all through the age groups (Latham also captained the CBHS under-15A rugby team in 2007) and I managed to do it for Canterbury for a couple of games in my second season. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Regardless of whether you’re captain you’re always thinking about the game in terms of how to push it forward. You’re working together as a team and we’ve obviously got a great group of guys that have been around together for a long time now who know each other’s game inside and out. I keep in touch with Kane and we’ve got a lot of leaders in the group as well. It’s easy to lean on them for support.

Tom Latham leads New Zealand onto Hagley Oval during the triumphant first test against South...
Tom Latham leads New Zealand onto Hagley Oval during the triumphant first test against South Africa last week. Photo: Getty Images
If you weren’t a professional cricketer, what would you be? Did you do any homework on an alternative career path?
Mum (Sally) and dad always said you have to have a plan B, or you’ve got to have something you work towards. I probably would have looked to have got into teaching if I didn’t pursue cricket. It probably would have been PE (physical education).

Did dad do much coaching with you when you were starting out?
When I was younger dad ran the cricket teams but as I got a little bit older he took a backward step and let the coaches around the school set-up and also around the age-group set-up take over.

The old man was nearly 30 when he played for ‘The Young Guns’, you earned your first New Zealand cap at 19 (in an ODI against Zimbabwe in Dunedin in 2012). Rod’s roles were defined – hard-hitting batsman, dibbly dobbly medium pacer, you’ve had to be versatile haven’t you …
It was nice to get that opportunity at an early age. I was sort of a utility guy (he has batted in every position from opener to No 9) I wasn’t necessarily first choice in the team, but managed to fill a lot of spots, whether it was at the top of the order, the middle or with the gloves.

Although you’re regarded as an opener first and foremost, you’re also tidy behind the stumps when required aren’t you …
I always kept and opened the batting in age group cricket. It’s something I’ve enjoyed in recent years in the one-day squad …. having that role in the middle order and keeping. 

You made your test debut at No 4 when Ross Taylor was unavailable to play India at the Basin Reserve in February 2014. You made an eight-ball duck in the first innings, one of 408 players to start their test careers in that manner but a trip to the Caribbean four months later saw you establish yourself in the troublesome opening role. What is it that appeals about facing the new ball?
I guess it’s challenging yourself against the best at the start. It’s pretty special, opening the first day of a test match. You’ve got to face your first ball at some point so you might as well get it over with pretty quickly. It has its moments in terms of some of the surfaces we play on. You go through highs and lows as you do in many sports.

Scotland features on your Cricinfo player profile. Your son is Angus and there’s a photo of you wearing a Celtic scarf at the Glasgow football club’s ground before a match with Dundee. Do you have a strong connection to the highlands and lochs?
No, there’s no Scottish heritage at all. I ended up playing in the Pro40 (one-day) competition for the Scotland Saltires (in 2013). They could have a couple of overseas players. I was there with the Black Caps and ended up staying on. (Latham was originally derived from the old Norse word hlathum, the plural of hlath, which means a barn).

Tom Latham, Nicole and their baby son Angus. Photo: Supplied
Tom Latham, Nicole and their baby son Angus. Photo: Supplied
You play all three formats – returning to the T20 fold to captain the Black Caps in Bangladesh last year after almost four years out of the game’s shortest format. How important is it to be adaptable these days? Is it difficult?
Nowadays with professional cricket it’s about being able to adapt to each situation, each format, in the space of a few days when you’re on tour. It’s more a mindset change rather than technical change. Going from shorter form to longer form it’s harder to make those adjustments because you’re trying to hit the ball out of the park and then you’re trying to leave as much as you can. 

Name a couple of the most demanding bowlers you’ve faced?
Pat Cummins (Australian test captain) is up there, he’s a quality bowler and (West Indian off-spinner) Sunil Narine. He was certainly a challenge when I first started, spinning it both ways at a reasonably quick pace.

Do you have a favourite test innings? One you reminisce about if you’re going through a lean run?
I don’t think there’s a specific one that stands out. You look at your high scores (264 not out against Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve in 2018) from time to time and you look back on them as pretty special times. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the high scores you get the satisfaction from, it’s when you’re under pressure and your teams under pressure and you manage to save a game or get them out of a tricky situation. If you can overcome that, it almost brings as much satisfaction as when you do get runs.

West Indian tweaker Sunil Narine was a challenging opponent when Latham was in the formative...
West Indian tweaker Sunil Narine was a challenging opponent when Latham was in the formative stages of his Blacks Caps career. Photo: Getty Images
The IPL (Indian Premier League) auction was earlier this month and 11 Black Caps were picked up including quicks Lockie Ferguson (Gujarat Royals) and Trent Boult (Rajasthan Royals) who fetched $2 million and $1.6m respectively. Envious?
It’s certainly something I’d love to play in. I’d love to experience it but I haven’t played a huge amount of T20 cricket recently.

You’re an ambassador for the Maia Health Foundation (as is former Black Cap Brendon McCullum), why did you get involved in that Christchurch initiative?
We’ve been through a lot in Canterbury (earthquakes, Mosque shootings) and Maia is raising funds for a new outpatient facility for child and youth mental health. It will really make a difference to our young people. Maia also completed a huge project in 2019, (raising $2m) to upgrade the rooftop helipad at Christchurch Hospital.

You added another string to your bow during the first lockdown in 2020 didn’t you …
I started learning the guitar, it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but I’d never gotten around to it. Lockdowns gave me this chance to earn a new skill.