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Tom Latham is New Zealand’s highest run-scorer this series AFP

Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Steven Smith fall in the same age group. Their achievements, more or less, match wavelengths. Kohli, given his godly form in limited-overs cricket, is a bit ahead in the race. While Williamson is class-apart, Root is more relaxed at the crease. Smith, however, has been unable to weld the chinks in his armour of late. Point being, we often see cricket experts talk about these swashbuckling youngsters. However, for the past few months, Tom Latham the only New Zealander to score a fifty in all matches of the recently concluded three-Test series against India has been knocking on the door of this star-studded league. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs New Zealand, 4th ODI at Ranchi

There’s always a player in a team who overshadows his teammate with his rather superlative performances. It’s an accepted truth, be it any sports. Well, the word we are looking for is second fiddle, the one who consistently performs but fails to match the aura of the best performer. To be precise, his role is perceived as a secondary one. He doesn’t make it to the front page but finds a place in the mandatory reports at least. You may term him as a silent warrior or an unsung hero, for he does not hog the limelight.

I had written an article after Latham scored a stylish 58 in the Kanpur Test. This is how I had concluded: “If he [Latham] continues the stellar show, he is likely to match Williamson s stature (no, this is not an overstatement).”

To put things into perspective, he finished as the second-highest run-scorer, scoring much more than his skipper and Mr. Consistent, Williamson. Of course, Williamson was ruled out of the second Test due to illness, but Latham’s application was top-class, something even the more-experienced Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor failed to do.

Latham opened the batting, untangled himself from Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s swing web, refused to easily fall in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s traps and played characteristic innings.

Unlike Williamson, this was his first tour to India. Different batting conditions under scorching heat, his task got only tougher. But not even for a moment did he show signs of weakness.

“I suppose the more myself and everyone out there is exposed to these conditions, the more experienced we get and hopefully in future tours, we can challenge more and share our skills. Personally, it has been nice to spend a bit of time (in the middle) and getting used to the conditions,” Latham told PTI ahead of the fourth match.

Latham’s conventional brand of cricket best suits Test cricket, but that does not mean he can’t excel in the shorter formats.

To make the picture clearer, his scores read 60, 64 and 54 in New Zealand tour of South Africa 2015. However, his team lost the series 1-2.

He has scored only one hundred in ODIs: unbeaten 110 against Zimbabwe. This may not count as his best knock but is a hundred nonetheless. What this also suggests is that he does not get carried away and makes full use of the opportunities, be it big or small.

He does not struggle earlier in the innings. He, in fact, looks set start from the word go.

He has scored 10 fifties in 25 Tests and 15 30-plus scores in 41 ODIs. He is an opener and gets the starts his team needs him to. Reaching a three-figure mark may be a concern for him, but rarely does he fail to lay the foundation for the middle order.

“You need those big hundreds if you want to win. Look at Virat Kohli the other night. He got into a position and he won the game (for India). Obviously, it’s nice that I am putting myself in that situation. Hopefully, I am able to put up a big score. It’s the big hundreds that count,” he added.

In the ongoing ODI series, he has scores of 79*, 46 and 61.

His unbeaten 79 made him the first New Zealander to carry his bat. In relatively seaming conditions, he blossomed when other mainstay batters failed. Even Williamson could amass only 3 runs.

New Zealand were 106 for 8 with Tim Southee in the middle. Despite keeping the tail-ender off strike, he let him take the centre stage. However, Southee has a reputation of using the long handle to blasting effect, so much so that he has more sixes than the number of ODIs he has played.

Southee scored 55 and added 71 for the ninth wicket. Meanwhile, Latham dealt in singles, making sure he keeps his wicket intact.

What commendable was he ran 43 runs between the wickets out of the 79 runs he added to the scoreboard. And in the third ODI, he again ran 43 runs out of the 61 runs.

In the same piece articulating his batsmanship, I wrote:

“New Zealand, for the past decade, struggled filling the opener s spot. Yes, they had Martin Guptill in their armoury. But they needed someone armed with rock-solid technique. More importantly, they needed someone who has the temperament to play long innings, for New Zealand always yielded players who follow the attacking brand of cricket.

Latham is different. He is patient. He has a zen-like focus. Above all, he seems unaffected in pressure situations.”

This sums up his current form. He justified every word. And he is more than likely to match Williamson‘s aura one day. But he is way behind when it comes to averages. It’s unmatched, in all honesty. Yes, Williamson has played almost twice the matches, but the star batsman has already scored 22 international hundreds compared to Latham’s 6 hundreds. Latham has a long way to go, isn’t it?

All said and done, Latham still has more runs than Williamson in this series. We can’t take away that fact from him. Again, the application comes into play. But again, Williamson’s big knock came in a winning cause, something Latham is yet to master.

Latham does score runs on consistent basis, but he needs to play match-winnings innings time and again, for it is the result that matters at the end of the day.

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)