Blackcaps skipper not worried about underdog tag, focused on playing their best cricket

New Zealand captain Tom Latham pre-match interview ahead of opening match of ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 in India

Hello Tom, long time no see. About to kick off this World Cup here. I mean how excited are you now? One day away from beginning to get your campaign underway?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, it’s extremely exciting. I think you look at a World Cup and it’s always, you know, it’s always on the horizon. It’s always years away. And then I guess to finally be here is really exciting. We’ve obviously had a nice build up with a few practice games, like obviously everyone has, but yeah, to play the opening game here at an amazing stadium is pretty special. So it’s a unique one being played here in India, and it’s obviously a fantastic place to play cricket and really excited to get underway tomorrow

[Reporter:]

Obviously, a lot of talk about the fact that it’s the same two teams who played the last match of the previous World Cup. Does that have any bearing whatsoever on this game going forward? I know you know each other very well, having just played in England, but there’s going to be, I think, seven of your team, possibly seven of England’s team from that final, so quite familiar faces.

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, absolutely. As you said, we’ve played England a lot in a few formats over the last couple of years and it’s a question that always pops up, but I think from our point of view we’re solely focused on the job at hand tomorrow. We’ve had time to certainly reflect on what a fantastic game it was four years ago and I’m sure everyone will say it’s probably one of the greatest games of cricket to be played. So from our point of view that’s certainly – we’ve parked that and we’re really looking forward to what the challenges present tomorrow. To play a fantastic England side in a World Cup opener is really special so can’t get much better than that.

[Reporter:]

And there’s no Kane Williamson tomorrow, how much of a blow, how much of a miss is that for you? I know you’ve played a lot of cricket without him recently, but still, you’re squad captain and the guy, I guess, that you rely on most of all.

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah I guess any team that doesn’t have Kane in it is obviously, you know, we’d certainly be better off having him but I think from our point of view for him to be here, to be at the World Cup is a testament to – I think the work that he’s put on over the last four to five months to be where he is and I think it’s nearly six months post-surgery and for him to be given a shot, to be given a chance to play in the World Cup at some point is really a testament to the work that he’s put in. So for him it’s a day-by-day process in terms of where his recovery is at. He’s obviously played a little bit of a part of the last two warm-up games. You know he’s been batting beautifully which is great to see and he was out in the field a couple of days ago so he’s progressing really nicely and fingers crossed he’s on the park sooner rather than later.

[Reporter:]

It wouldn’t be the build up to a World Cup if there weren’t a lot of predictions running around, a lot of them evidently meaningless in terms of what you do. But I’ve noticed a lot of people predicting automatically for the semi-finals, England, Australia, India, and then maybe a mix of maybe Pakistan, maybe South Africa, maybe New Zealand, despite the fact that you were finalists last year and have a pretty good run in ODIs. Does that suit you and why do you think that is?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah I think from our point of view, I’m sure like most teams, we’re not necessarily focused on what people are predicting. From our point of view we’re solely focused on what we have to do. The brand of cricket that we want to play at this World Cup is our main focus and when it comes towards the end of the tournament, if we’re in those positions then that’s great. But if we can play our brand of cricket in these conditions, which is obviously completely different to the last two ODI World Cups being in Australia and England, so we just want to come here and play some good cricket, play our brand of cricket, and if we do that, then we know we’ll give ourselves a good chance of being there in the back end of the tournament.

[Reporter:]

Why do you think that is, though, considering you made the last two World Cup finals and yet you still have that kind of underdog tag?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, I’m not too sure. That’s probably something for you guys to decide, but, you know, as I said, we don’t necessarily focus on that. We just tend to, I guess, Kiwis fly under the radar a little bit and go about our business in the way that we want to. Every team has a different brand that they like to play, a style that they like to play in, and we have ours. We know if we do that and we play to the best of our ability then we are hard to beat on the day. I guess that’s something about these tournaments where you play everyone once, it’s about turning up on that specific day and trying to play your best brand of cricket. If you can do that, then teams will give themselves a good chance at the back end of the game. So for us, if we can do that, then we’ll know we’ve given ourselves a good chance.

[Reporter:]

Tom, is it fair to assume that Daryl Mitchell’s role is something similar to Grant Elliot, what he did in the past, the kind of a finisher that Mitchell is and also bowling medium pace, taking wickets, staying not out, and connecting that top and the lower order.

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, Darrell is someone for us that’s been fantastic over the last 18 months to two years from where he’s come. He’s come on leaps and bounds from when he’s played international cricket. And I think the opportunities that he’s been given at the top of the order or towards the top of the order, he’s certainly taken those opportunities. And certainly, one day cricket, he’s been fantastic in terms of batting through and putting some big numbers on the board. I think from his point of view he goes out there and plays his style. I think the good thing about Daryl, he’s adaptable to every situation. He can knuckle down if he needs to and he can obviously play an expansive brand of cricket as well if he needs to. So, I think that’s the beauty about him, he’s able to play in every situation and I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to doing that over the next sort of six weeks or so.

[Reporter:]

Yeah. How is it to start off in front of the world’s biggest stadium? You know, how much of an impact is that?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, it’s an amazing opportunity. And you know, I’ve just arrived at this grounds, first time I’ve been here and walking across the ground it’s pretty special and talking to some of the guys that have played the IPL games here they’ve certainly said it’s an amazing place to play cricket especially in front of a packed house. So, we’re really excited to play the opening game of the World Cup here against a quality opposition and I think from our point of view, as I said earlier, the World Cup always seems a long way away, but for it to finally be here is really cool.

[Reporter:]

What’s the tag you would like? Dark horses or favourites or what exactly?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, no tags from us. As I said earlier, for us it’s about trying to play our brand of cricket as best we can. We’ve got a mix of experience and a mix of youth. We’ve got some guys playing in their fourth World Cup, some guys playing in their first. So, for us it’s about trying to play our brand of cricket as best we can and if we can do that then hopefully give ourselves a good chance at the back end of the tournament.

[Reporter:]

England play a certain brand of cricket which is now famous the world over irrespective of format so a team that bats so deep till number nine and I guess we can all agree they’re going to be fantastic batting conditions. How do you front up to a challenge like that, a team that bats till number nine and just keeps coming at you?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, I think we’re lucky enough, we played England you know just a couple of weeks ago in a series and we’ve certainly seen in that series and obviously watching series beforehand that they are a team that do come hard and they’ve got some quality players in that side. I think from our point of view it’s trying to plan as best you can and in terms of our scouting and in terms of areas that we want to bowl in, we want to put pressure on. So, I guess from our point of view it’s trying to apply as much pressure as we can and then if we can do that and we can make some early inroads then that’d be great. But yeah, as I said from our point of view, we know they’re going to keep coming hard, which also presents us with opportunities.

So, we’ll have to wait and see what conditions are going to be like. I’m sure throughout the tournament that they will change. They might change from the day time to evening time. It’s just about trying to be adaptable to conditions and also adaptable to each team that we come up against.

[Reporter:]

I was going to ask about that – the recent series in England actually – does a 3-1 win have any impact going into this game and were there any chinks in the English armour that you spotted that you might be able to exploit out here?

[Tom Latham:]

I don’t think it has any bearing on the next game. I think as I said earlier it’s about turning up on that specific day and trying to play your best brand of cricket. We know if we do that and we play to the best of our ability, then we can beat anyone in the world. It’s going to be a great opportunity tomorrow for us to come up against one of the best teams in the world at the moment. Conditions are completely different to what we played over in England. So again, it’s about being adaptable to them as much as we can. But I’m sure like most teams, they’ll be really looking forward to getting into the tournament and getting started and we’re no different.

[Reporter:]

Tom, lots of doubts emerging about the future of the One Day game as we head into this World Cup. As a player and as a team, how much do you guys enjoy playing this format or do you feel that this format needs reinvention or some kind?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, I think from my point of view from I’m sure a lot of our guys regardless of what format they love playing for New Zealand and what the future holds of one day cricket I guess that’s certainly out of our hands, but I guess for me the more cricket we can play the better. Playing in a World Cup in these sort of conditions over in India is pretty special and I’m sure we’re going to see some fantastic cricket over the next sort of six to eight weeks. So, fingers crossed there’s plenty of one day cricket coming up in the future, but from our point of view all we can do is try to entertain from a cricket point of view. If we can do that and put a good showcase on for the people around the world, then hopefully it’s here to stay.

[Reporter:]

Sorry, I should have asked this right from the start. Have you got a team for us for tomorrow?

[Tom Latham:]

Not a team. We’ve obviously just arrived at the moment, so, or guys just arriving, so we’ll have a look at the surface when we get out there and then we’ll be able to make some decisions on what that looks like.

[Reporter:]

We know about Kane, is there anything about Tim as well? Is he definitely out?

[Tom Latham:]

Yeah, so obviously no Kane and no Tim as well. He’s unavailable for selection just in terms of what happened to his thumb a couple of weeks ago, but he’s recovering nicely. I think he’s nearly two weeks post-surgery so fingers crossed he can keep recovering. It’s a bit of a day-by-day process with him in terms of what that looks like too. But fingers crossed he’ll be available sooner rather than later as well.

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