After being an integral part of the New Zealand side for nearly a decade and a half, Ross Taylor will bid goodbye to the international arena when the Blackcaps face the Netherlands in a three-match ODI series starting from March 29.
Stand-in captain Tom Latham is eyeing a fitting farewell for Taylor, just like how the right-handed batter signed off from Test cricket against Bangladesh in Christchurch earlier this year, taking the final wicket with his part-time off-spin.
"I'm not sure if I'll be giving him a ball in the series; I'll never say never. But Ross has been a massive part of the side for such a long time in all three formats. Like I said, a great farewell and just finished his Test career a few months ago. I'm sure he's looking forward to retirement; probably mixed emotions.
"But I think it's important that we get around Ross this weekend, and make sure he enjoys the next few games that he has," said Latham in an interview with IANS, organised by Amazon Prime Video.
Latham acknowledged New Zealand will miss the wealth of knowledge Taylor has but feels that his exit is a chance for up-and-coming players to fill the vacant spot in the batting order.
"He's been such an amazing part of the side for such a long time. He's performed in all conditions around the world and, and he's certainly going to be missed. He's been great to have on our side, and will certainly miss his experience and leadership as well. But on the other hand, it's going to present opportunities for other guys when he does leave. We're certainly looking forward to, you know, celebrating Ross's last few games within."
New Zealand's series against the Netherlands begins with a one-off T20I on March 25 at Napier followed by the three ODIs, starting at Mount Maunganui followed by Hamilton hosting the last two matches. It is the first time New Zealand will face the Netherlands since the 1996 ODI World Cup and eight years after their last T20I meeting in the Men's T20 World Cup in 2014.
"It's an exciting time to play against the Netherlands. I think it's the first time that they are touring New Zealand. Also, it's the first time I think we are going to play them in a series in a long time. We have got some new faces in the squad. Some guys who haven't played a lot of cricket recently or coming off the back of the Test matches and then obviously, there's the guys at the IPL. So, it's a really exciting series coming up and one to look forward to," stated Latham.
From the Netherlands squad, there's one name Latham is very familiar with: all-rounder Logan van Beek. The duo were together in New Zealand's squad for the 2010 U19 Men's World Cup and lived with current Blackcaps pacer Matt Henry for a couple of years while playing for Canterbury in domestic circuit.
"It's obviously very exciting to face Logan. We've got a very close friendship, all three of us (Latham, van Beek and Henry). So, to be playing international cricket against Logan, someone who's a great friend, but has also played a lot of domestic cricket here in New Zealand is going to be really exciting. I'm sure he's really looking forward to the opportunity to perform against the Blackcaps at international cricket. So, it's certainly going to be very, very cool."
Latham also feels that for the Netherlands to play against New Zealand, the current top-ranked ODI side is going to be extremely advantageous for the tourists. In the current 13-team World Cup Super League system, the Netherlands are guaranteed to play 24 ODIs against full member nations.
"It's hugely beneficial for any associate nation to play against a full nation, which is actually important for their growth as a side, as a country and, for cricket in their country. The more opportunities they get, the more they're going to improve as a side. That presents other opportunities for us as well. This is the first time (in this decade) that we are going to play the Dutch. The more we play them, the more growth happens in world cricket. So, I certainly think it's only a benefit to play and more associate nations when we can."
Against the Netherlands, New Zealand will be missing their 12 first-choice players, including regular skipper Kane Williamson, as the IPL 2022 season begins from March 26. But Latham is hopeful of newbies like all-rounder Michael Bracewell and wicketkeeper-batter Dane Cleaver grabbing their chances against the Netherlands.
"It's disappointing on missing the likes of Kane, Trent (Boult), and guys that have been such an important part of the side. But, on the other hand, it presents opportunities for guys that have been doing well, domestically. The likes of Michael Bracewell and Dane Cleaver, who are in the T20 squad, have certainly earned their selection through performances over recent years, especially this season.
"So, it's really good to build the depth of New Zealand cricket and, and with the T20 World Cup coming up; it's important to try and explore options. So, really good opportunity for those sorts of guys. But it is also for the other guys, who are in the sport as well, that potentially haven't played as much cricket for New Zealand as they would like," signed off Latham.